Big data

Big data

Big data basically refers to large-scale, increasingly growing, widely distributed, and diverse collection of data assets necessitating use of data analytics solutions to derive valuable insights that can be leveraged to gain sustainable development and growth (Girard, 2015).  Big data can help an organization gain useful information and/or knowledge regarding a wide array of issues, ranging from customer expectations and preferences to creation of innovative and quality business products (Turner, Schroeck, & Shockley, 2013). However, how can big data analytics support strategic project management?

To start with, big data analytics helps trace valuable patterns in diverse datasets that drive efficiency and effectiveness in project portfolio management. The world of project management has large datasets on projects that remains largely unused and/or idle, and they may be holding the edge to an efficient management of project portfolios. Not surprisingly, it would be challenging or impossible for any project manager to manually extract or filter knowledge, patterns, relationships, trends, or facts from large data resources. This necessitates big data analytics to derive insightful patterns and drive better accuracy, because there are minimal chances for miscalculations or unwanted human error (Hu & Kaabouch, 2014). According to Girard (2015), patterns extracted from big data analytics provides the bigger picture about a project to bridge existing and potential gaps and voids in project portfolio management. As a result, there are better chances of mitigating potential project challenges and risks, thus helping avoid project management pitfalls (Leal, 2015).

Secondly, making sufficient sense of the unused datasets can help derive key project elements for better decision-making with respect to managing resources (human resources, equipment, timeline, and budget), overcoming risk factors and quality issues, change management, and scope management. Big data bolsters the sense-making process involving disparate datasets, which could otherwise be based on guesswork, expert advice, or mere previous experiences. Combining big data analytics with subject-matter expertise and past experiences is an integral element of successful project management (Leal, 2015). Girard (2015) argues that big data analytics forms an key pillar of project management at a time marred by depressing statistics about failed projects due to poor understanding of cost projections, milestones, scheduling, task prioritization, team management, and resource management.

Thirdly, there are projects whose requirements are not clearly understood upfront or are extremely complex to manage using conventional approaches, translating to inherent risks that can lead to depressing delays, excessive cost overruns, quality issues, or even total failure. Processing large and fragmented structured and unstructured datasets to extract useful facts, ideas, correlations, and patterns may facilitate innovation, predictive risk management, while seizing new opportunities. In addition, big data analytics may facilitate the selection of the best implementation strategies as well as the break down of large and complex projects into manageable packages, deliverables, and milestones towards successful delivery. Visualization of poorly-defined requirements and project complexities supported by big data is critical to strategic management of projects that are not clearly understood upfront (Girard, 2015; Hu & Kaabouch, 2014; Leal, 2015).

Lastly, big data may be used in stakeholder management – which encompasses a major element of project management. More precisely, big data analytics may help understand the requirements and expectations of the large number of stakeholders involved, including employees, business managers, executives, customers, the community, suppliers and vendors, and regulators. In addition, big data analytics may be used to understand crucial insights associated with conflicting requirements among stakeholders, and political issues and controversies triggered by perceived exclusion. These are issues that could otherwise jeopardize coordination, collaboration, project progress, and acceptance if not handled properly – on time and adequately. Big data analytics could drive valuable stakeholder management insights for better decision-making, and continuous communications and reporting (Girard, 2015; Hu & Kaabouch, 2014; Leal, 2015).

It is evident that big data constitutes a valuable tool for government agencies in their strategic project management processes because it supports informed and smart use of diverse data resources. This is critical to meeting accountability requirements expected of government agencies.

II

There is no universal definition of big data. Basically, organizations must implement a sound strategic big data plan, information foundation, and analytics solutions that support the increasingly growing and dynamic volume, variety, veracity, and velocity of datasets (IBM, n.d.; Turner et al., 2013). The convergence of volume, variety, veracity, and velocity of data constitute the four dimensions definition of big data (Tai, 2015).

Volume refers to the quantity or scale of structured (from systems such as ERP and CRM solutions that are directly related to an organization) and unstructured (from external systems such as social media) data. Most organizations in the U.S. handle data resources in the excess of 100 Terabytes. Data created daily accounts for approximately 2.5 trillion Gigabytes, and it is expected there will be close to 43 trillion Gigabytes of data by 2020. The growth of data can be attributed to proliferation of PCs, smartphones, expanding internet of things (IoT), wearable technologies, increased adoption of enterprise information systems, and growing social media trends. Growing data stored, processed, and shared across these technologies constitute to the volume big data dimension (Hu & Kaabouch, 2014; IBM, n.d.; Tai, 2015).

The variety dimension refers to the diverse forms and sources of structured and unstructured datasets that need to be managed and analyzed. The form diversity is triggered by the wide range of technologies, for example, wearable devices (holding health-related data), CCTVs (video surveillance records), databases, and social media tweets, posts, and comments. In addition, there are diverse emails, images, and videos from a wide range of systems, which triggers data warehousing and data mining challenges (Hu & Kaabouch, 2014; IBM, n.d.; Tai, 2015).

Veracity encompasses the uncertainty, volatility, and validity problems surrounding rapidly growing data assets. The data resources handled by modern semi-automated and automated systems cannot be trusted for decision-making processes, because of potential inaccuracies, ambiguities, biasness, anomalies, biasness, and quality issues. These are issues that are brought about by increased data generation and diversity, and they need to be adequately managed. The business value of such data resources is derived through big data analytics, and constitutes the veracity big data dimension. In today’s dynamic information and competitive world, the value of data resources may depreciate within a day. Therefore, big data initiatives require a proactive management approach to uphold the sight of authenticity, accuracy, quality, and validity of data and associated insights (Hu & Kaabouch, 2014; IBM, n.d.; Tai, 2015).

The velocity dimension entails actively streaming data. For example, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) captures approximately 1 terabyte of trading data during every business session. There are close to 2.5 network connections per person globally. Incorporation of sensors and GPS tracking into consumer appliances (such as TVs and refrigerators) and modern cars as well as the growing IP-based networks have led to increasingly growing streaming internet traffic. More precisely, IP-based networks facilitate accumulation of data from many equipments and information systems such as CCTV systems, HVAC implementations, building management solutions, and ERP and CRM applications (Hu & Kaabouch, 2014; IBM, n.d.; Tai, 2015).

References

Girard, J. (2015). Strategic Data-Based Wisdom in the Big Data Era. IGI Global.

Hu, W. C., & Kaabouch, N. (2014). Big Data Management, Technologies, and Applications. Information Science Reference.

IBM. (n.d.). Infographics: The Four V’s of Big Data. Retrieved from http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/infographic/four-vs-big-data

Leal, J. G. (2015). Handbook of Research on Effective Project Management through the Integration of Knowledge and Innovation. IGI Global.

Tai, N. (2015). Dimensions of Big Data. Retrieved from http://www.klarity-analytics.com/2015/07/27/dimensions-of-big-data

Turner, D., Schroeck, M., & Shockley, R. (2013). Analytics: The real-world use of Big Data in financial services. IBM Global Business Services.

Levels of health and safety at workplaces

Levels of health and safety at workplaces

Introduction

Upholding acceptable levels of health and safety at workplaces is critical to the productivity and well-being of all people occupying a premise, and to the overall performance and integrity of an organization and the growth of national economy (Hopkins 2002). According to Fleming & Lardner (2002), occupational health and safety is commonly protected through legislation, programmes, best practices, services and standards devised to prevent occupational injuries and accidents. For example, labour programmes proactively work with employers toward reducing job-related illness and injuries through provision of information aimed at bolstering health and safety within organizations.

Every organization is expected by law to have a management system in place to help: observe workplace, machinery, materials and premises safety; inform people on how to protect themselves or react in case of an accident; provide employees’ compensation in the event of challenges related to occupational injuries, illnesses or accidents; and, comply with health and safety policies (Taylor 2012). Compliance with these responsibilities and requirements prevents an organization from experiencing occupational health and safety issues, thus eliminating prosecution and/or penalty problems. However, “effectively managing for health and safety is not just about having a management or safety management system. The success of whatever process or system is in place still hinges on the attitudes and behaviours of people in the organisation”, and this is the core this research.  Therefore, this paper seeks to critically evaluate how attitudes and behaviours at work impacts on the effectiveness of implemented health and safety management system – processes, guidelines and policies.

What is SMS?

A Safety Management System (SMS) refers to a documented formal organizational approach to health and safety management, which entails systematic, top-down business structures, policies, procedures and accountabilities to guide parties (employer and employees) in adhering to safe occupational habits in the course of their day to day work (Glendon, Clarke, McKenna 2006). An SMS includes industry and global best practices and standards in addition to relevant legislation elements to help implement effective health and safety control measures in a structured scheme (HSE 2013). All parties are obligated to comply with provisions of implemented SMS to ensure they are assured of proper prevention from risks associated with occupational health and safety, and are at disposal of remediation or recovery capabilities in the event that a disaster strikes.

As a best practice, organizations should seek approval from an independent audit authority or regulators to ensure that their SMS solutions are effective in proactively mitigating against health and safety risks. An SMS solution provides a business with the capability to (Broadbent 2004):

  • Effectively identify risks and mitigation procedures.
  • Gain a baseline audit consideration elements for regular assessment of health and safety policies, programmes and procedures.
  • Make sound decisions with respect to health and safety risk control.
  • Guarantee health and safety to all parties hence improving workforce productivity and confidence and the overall business performance.
  • Achieve an interface for effective knowledge and information sharing between the business and safety regulators.
  • Bolster customer confidence and trust, because people would like to be associated with an organization that upholds occupational safety.
  • Meet legal obligations with respect to occupational health and safety laws and regulations.
  • Promote a solid health and safety culture.

Attitude and behaviour

Attitudes consist of a relatively persistent set of feelings, beliefs, perceptions, and behavioural inclinations toward personally-tied social groups or symbols. An attitude makes an individual to psychologically tend to evaluate a certain entity with some degree of effectiveness or cognition.  Attitudes play a key role in shaping an individual’s behaviours by influencing how one acts or behaves depending on particular beliefs and conditions. Behaviour is a collection of actions done by an individual or a group. It is the consequent of conscious and/or subconscious thoughts. Organizational management are presented with all kinds of employees with disparate personalities, attitudes and behaviours, and they must work towards adjusting them to leverage their positive aspects (Kreitner 2008).

How SMS relates to the attitude and behaviour (critique of the statement)

HSE (2013) observed that “effectively managing for health and safety is not just about having a management or safety management system. The success of whatever process or system is in place still hinges on the attitudes and behaviours of people in the organisation”. How true is this statement? Is having a sound SMS enough to militate against health and safety risks or there are some human elements such as attitudes and behaviours that promote the effectiveness of such a safety management solution? Guldenmund (2000) stresses that a vibrant, sound SMS solution stems from workers’ dedication towards upholding the “right” thing as stipulated in the SMS policies and procedures at all times, even when safety agents are not around. This way, all the safety aspects are complied with leaving no room for overlooking any SMS provision. Therefore, the effectiveness of an SMS solution lies in employees’ adherence to positive attitudes and behaviours toward particular implement SMS’s health and safety provisions.

Although compliance with implemented SMSs is always mandatory, the decision to always follow stated procedures, policies or codes or not to rests with individual workers (Cooper 2000). Individual actions constitute a considerable element of effectiveness of an SMS rather than the sheer volume and depth of the safety framework. Therefore, it is important to sufficiently focus on addressing human aspects of SMS implementation rather than investing too much effort towards the formal, systematic documentation of health and safety controls. OSHA (2014) claims that the focus should be on human elements of instilling a positive attitude to workers as well as creating awareness on safe habits to help incline behaviours of the workforce towards adopting the implemented SMS. This way, both formal and human elements of health and safety will be considered in the SMS implementation, leveraging its capacity to truly control risks.

HSE (2013) notes that effective management of health and safety is beyond merely implementing an SMS, but success remains in creating a safety culture, which rests on the organizational workforce’s attitudes and behaviours. This translates to: are people doing what they are required to do? The policies and procedures may be provided, but do people have positive attitudes and behaviour with regard to health and safety practices. What are the implications of undertaking health or safety procedures badly or ignoring them? To a large extent, attitudes and behaviours constitute cultural issues and musts be considered in the implementation of an SMS to bolster its effectiveness (Cooper 2000; Hopkins 2002). Therefore, organizations should plan for proper change management scheme through training and promotional campaigns to enhance SMS acceptance and create a positive culture characterized by positive attitudes and behaviours regarding health and safety. This way, people will comply with provisions of an SMS as a formality or culture regardless of whether enforcement personnel are present or not. Consequently, the effectiveness of SMS solution is inclined towards better success.

Lack of dedication of the workforce in complying with an SMS is one of the major reasons behind poor health and safety practices, despite presence of safety guidelines, standards, policies and procedures (Roughton & Mercurio 2002). Legally, organizations are supposed to provide information, train, and involve and consult the workforce in full participation in the health and safety management. Effective workforce involvement and consultation creates a positive culture, whereby employer-employee relationships are based on trust, joint brainstorming and problem solving, communication, and collaboration (Blewett & Shaw 2001). Involving employees in identifying, assessing and devising mitigation measures eliminate challenges that may arise from a feeling that implemented health and safety policies and procedures are imposed on them, an issue that may cause negative attitudes and behaviours (Taylor 2012).  Consequently, the effectiveness of the SMS is hindered due to issues such as workforce rejection or reluctance to adopt specified safe practices. Therefore, the importance of influencing the workforce towards SMS improved acceptability and compliance with health and safety requirements cannot be ignored.

Safety arrangements that deny employees a chance to be heard are more likely to face rejection issues (HSE 2013). Consequently, the workforce may have negative attitudes toward implemented health and safety measures. In addition, the workforce may practice unsafe work habits either intentionally as a protest or unknowingly due to lack of training and/or instruction. For example, the workforce may be short of information about safe use of equipment leading into health hazards such as injuries. As a result, the sheer SMS implementation is rendered ineffective.

Research on occupational health and safety has confirmed that creating a sound safety culture has the greatest single impact on reduction of accidents and injuries (OSHA 2014). Therefore, organizational management must treat creation of this culture a top priority. A safety culture constitutes shared practices, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions regarding occupational health and safety issues that exist in an organization. According to Fleming & Lardner (2002), a safety culture is what creates attitudes that shape human behaviour; therefore, such a culture makes everyone to feel more responsible for health and safety and pursue it at all times.

With proper attitudes and behaviours toward safety, employees tend to go beyond implemented safety management controls to identify and assess unsafe conditions, and try to remedy them. A company whose workforce have positive attitudes and behaviours regarding work safety typically experiences limited at-risk incidents, consequently reducing accident rates, staff turnover, penalties, and absenteeism, while bolstering productivity (Broadbent 2004). Of great relevance to occupational health and safety is a model of workforce attitude and behaviour transformation (Glendon, Clarke, McKenna 2006). This is a key driver of a safety culture that collectively entail values, attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Consequently, employees and the public are enabled to act in a manner that makes them truly healthy and safe within particular premises.

For example, in a sound safety culture environment all workers would feel confident and comfortable reminding colleagues and the management to wear personal protective equipment such as sun glasses or gloves. Such attitudes and behaviours would not be perceived as over-zealous by anybody, but would be greatly valued by the company and possibly rewarded. When everyone acts responsibly by routinely looking out for the welfare of co-workers and pointing out unsafe practices and behaviours it becomes easier to follow set health and safety policies and procedures, thus boosting the effectiveness of the implemented SMS solution. Therefore, the effectiveness of an SMS solution greatly relies on the intention (attitudes governing the understanding and implementation of safe principles) and the ability (behavioural practices involving personal desire to comply with safe principles) of people towards observing an organization-wide health and safety culture rather than the sheer documentation of safe work practices.

Conclusion

Health and safety management is a fundamental organizational process that must be considered with seriousness evident in other business management aspects. An SMS provides solutions geared towards mitigating against organization-wide risks in business operations through a set of procedures, policies and processes that all parties must comply with in order to enhance workplace safety. Creating a significantly safe working environment is crucial to business success as it helps maximize staff productivity and retain employees. Organizations have a legal responsibility to ensure that their businesses do not cause health or safety problems to staff and the public.

It is evident that occupational health and safety co-exists with many factors, and human elements of attitudes and behaviours play an integral role in achieving considerable SMS solution’s effectiveness. A sound health and safety culture in an organization is a fundamentally valuable thing, an implementation that every company must develop internally. For effective running of an SMS solution, organizations must sufficiently and timely involve and consult employees in the entire course of identification and planning from remediation procedures to ensure acceptability and eventually instil a positive attitude and behaviour in the workforce. Through an effective change management plan, organizations are able to instruct and train the workforce on healthy and safe practices. This plays an integral role in shaping the workforce’s attitudes and behaviours toward understanding, embracing and practising health and safety requirements when doing their job. Therefore, organizational leadership must devise ways to build and enhance desired levels of safety culture in order to achieve effective SMS solutions.

References

Cooper, MD 2000, ‘Towards a model of safety culture’, Safety Science, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 112- 136.

Broadbent, D (eds) 2004, Proceedings of the 28th International  Congress of Psychology, August 8 – 14, 2004: Maximising Safety Performance via Leadership Behaviours. Beijing, CHINA, 2004

Blewett, V,  & Shaw A 2001, Small – Healthy and Safe? Implications of changing work organisation and reward systems for the OHS of women workers in small to medium enterprises, National Occupational Health and Safety Commission.

Glendon, AI, Clarke, SG, & McKenna, EF 2006, Human Safety and Risk Management, CRC Press.

Guldenmund, FW 2000, ‘The nature of safety culture: a review of theory and research’, Safety Science, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 216-256.

Hopkins, A 2002, Safety Culture, Mindfulness and Safe Behaviour: Converging ideas?, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation.

HSE 2013, Health and safety management systems, HSE, viewed 9 January 2015, <http://www.hse.gov.uk/managing/health.htm>

Fleming, M, & Lardner, R 2002, Strategies to promote safe behaviour as part of a health and safety management system, HSE, viewed 9 January 2015, <http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/crr_pdf/2002/crr02430.pdf>

Kreitner, R 2008, Principles of Management, Cengage Learning.

OSHA 2015, Creating a Safety Culture, OSHA, viewed 9 January 2015, <https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/safetyhealth/mod4_factsheets_culture.html>

Roughton, J, & Mercurio, J 2002, Developing an Effective Safety Culture: A Leadership Approach, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Taylor, JB 2012, Safety Culture: Assessing and Changing the Behaviour of Organisations, Gower Publishing, Ltd.

Global corporate world

Global corporate world

Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction. 2

2.0 Case studies. 3

2.1 DHL.. 3

2.2 Avnet Inc. 5

2.3 Penske. 7

2.4 Nestle. 8

3.0 Enablers for GIS. 9

4.0 Barriers to GIS. 10

5.0 References. 11

6.0 Appendices. 14

Appendix A: Implementation of GIS at DHL.. 14

Appendix B: Barriers to GIS. 14

Appendix C: Developing countries have lower accessibility to the U.S. and Eurpoe. 15

 

1.0 Introduction

Global corporate world has experienced fast advancements in Information Technology (IT) which have driven the creation and adoption of global Information Systems (ISs) and have helped many businesses grow into multinational companies (Bidgoli 2011). When a company expand its operations beyond its national borders, it also globalizes its information systems leading to a whole set of new problems that need to be effectively solved. Xu & Quaddus (2013) argues that problems arise due to different languages, cultures, laws and regulations, and currencies, time zones, political systems, competition from local brands and huge costs incurred on global ISs and supporting technologies. In addition, different countries posses different levels of IS and IT competency thus companies wishing to venture beyond their borders must either seek offshore IS services or send their IS personnel to execute some tasks (Information Resources Management Association 2011).

IS managers must rethink their IT global strategies in order to sufficiently solve these issues by becoming more informed of every local setting and adhering to more perfect solutions. Senior management of multinational corporations must be well versed with the  demanding task placed on IS managers who try to solve these issues while simultaneously coping with the dynamic nature of IT, thus the management must offer needed support to build a global IS that is capable of keeping the business competitive and sustainable.

This report involves case studies of four multinational companies – DHL, Nestle, Avnet and Penske that are using global ISs as a strategy to succeed beyond national borders. It will show how multinational firms are using global ISs to orchestrate their operations and take maximum advantage of their current position.  In addition, it will discuss enablers for GIS and barriers to GIS.

2.0 Case studies

2.1 DHL

DHL is a multinational company dealing in express deliveries, warehousing solutions, freight forwarding, mail deliveries and other tailored logistic services. It has a global network spanning over 220 countries servicing approximately 140, 000 destinations with instant and express deliveries (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013). This is a significant yet unique problem facing DHL: how is it possible to work in exceptionally unique local settings, with different cultures, local knowledge, and languages, while delivering parcel delivery and logistics on a time-intense and global platform?

Today, DHL is owned by the Deustsche Post World Net, and operates a global network of 4,400 regional offices and 238 gateways. In addition, it has over 450 hubs, terminals and warehouses. DHL employs more than 170,000 people and serves over 4.2 million worldwide customers using about 400 aircrafts (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).  DHL faced the challenges of keeping track of many operations and client packages. In case information is significantly delayed or inaccurate, scanners cannot operate, packages wait in warehouses and aircrafts fly empty.

Traditionally, DHL handled this issue by creating about 40 data centres in every major country of operation and then coordinating these data centres with a single set of central database applications installed in every country (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).  The global applications allowed locals to see local data only, thus setup was a considerable limitation because failure of one data centre means that e-mails, transit data and customer shipment, or billing details may be negatively affected leading to tracking problems globally.  This system was adequate to effectively support DHL operations until global trade extended beyond the local limits and data volume rapidly expanded.

After painful encounters, DHL discovered that running 50 different information system centres to a centralized global standard was hard in many countries (Research and Markets 2011). In addition, DHL learnt that information is more vital than packages: customers might understand when natural disasters such as hurricanes lead to loss of packages, but they will be intolerant if DHL systems failed and packages cannot be traced– even if they have been swept away by ocean waters.  The decentralized IS infrastructure slowed down changes and raised costs: it would take over 15 months to undertake software upgrades in 50 countries and computers and IT personnel were maintained in every country. In the third quarter of 1990, Stephen McGuckin became the Managing Director of the Asian & Middle Eastern operation which had its IT organization very strained and costly, and coordination centres were located in expensive areas: London, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Singapore, while the system was being developed in the U.S (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).

These necessitated new collection of management processes and McGuckin started implementing an increasingly centralized systems arrangement to decrease costs, risks, accelerate applications deployment, and enhance reliability. By 2000, DHL had concentrated its global IT structure into three inexpensive, regional centres: Prague, Cyberjaya, and Arizona, with each centre handling operations for a set of countries within the region. In the process, software production management was also changed. Initially, DHL outsourced all software creation from the Indian-based software firm InfoSys, but with consolidation, design work was transferred to Arizona while InfoSys remained with implementation and maintenance leading to reduced costs, accelerated deployment, and enhanced quality. Centralization was complete by 2006, and IT infrastructure’s maintenance costs have reduced by 40%; deployment of new applications takes less than a month; performance has been greatly enhanced (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).

This case study illustrates the challenges faced in becoming locally responsive and achieving seamless information flow across national borders in a real global system.  Though it will be resource-intensive, DHL needs to integrate all its systems and get rid of the three regional centers to enjoy full benefits of GIS. 

2.2 Avnet Inc.

Avnet is a New York-based firm founded in 1921 by Charles Avnet, and is among the Fortune 500 companies and one of the biggest suppliers of electronic components, connectors, embedded technology and computer products globally. Avnet has adopted various business strategies focused on future growth and use of global ISs to sustain corporate growth. Since 1991, Avnet has undergone a growth streak, buying 43 firms including Access Group, a British semi-conductor distributor (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).  According to Lalit & Kent (2012), approximately 60% of Avnet’s business involves distribution of components and the rest computer distribution thus it acts as a middleman between producers and end users including computer industries.

By 2001, the company had successfully expanded into Europe, China and Asia by purchasing the Chinese Sunrise Technology, and in 2005, Avnet bought Memec Group Holdings thus establishing itself better in the Asian market. However, the company has divided its global presence into three regions (Asia, USA and Europe) instead of forcing its purchased companies to adopt its American systems. Each region has its own ERP and associated systems to enable quick integration of new acquisitions and give regional managers freedom to chose how to organize their business in their region. In its acquisitions, Avnet weighs between retaining the systems of each firm and using its own in order to avoid training costs if entirely new systems are introduced to its employees (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).

Today, Avnet maintains two ERP systems: Genesis – a custom-built system in the U.S., and SAP in its Asian and Europe regions. However, Avnet maintains 10 SAP versions, nearly one for European country of operation (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013). A centralized SAP system is therefore necessary to consolidate the 10 SAP systems into one.

Due to its high acquisition rate, Avnet has developed “Cookbook” to help it integrate its new companies into its business model and global ISs (Gina 2013). Avnet’s Cookbook covers finances, human resources, logistics, materials, IT/IS, and sales and marketing (Lalit & Kent 2012). Gina (2013) claims that Cookbook has proved to be very instrumental in ensuring common business processes globally despite presence of different regional ERP systems by harmonizing regional and global financial transactions, orders, supply chains and other transactions. However, Avnet is working towards a global system that will replace the current ERP systems and achieve more conformity. Avnet’s executive management has stated that it understands the unique nature of each market but they believe, without an integrated global system, it is hard to achieve business growth and achieve a truly global recognition.

Avnet’s global strategy is at risk: acquisitions costs may outweigh derived profits and three regional ERP systems is a barrier to global strategy due to reduced commonality among regional offices.

2.3 Penske

Penske Inc. is a company dealing in a broad variety of transportation services in diversified industry segments such as retail automotive, transportation logistics, truck leasing, professional motorsports, and transportation components production (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).  

When Penske leases out a new truck to commercial trucking firms, Genpact its Indian vendor works remotely from Hyderabad to electronically arrange for registrations, state titles, and permits. Upon returning, the fuel, toll and driver’s taxes and log documents are dispatched to Genpact and the paperwork sent to Juarez, Mexico where Genpact also has an office for information to be posted into Penske’s information system. At Hyderabad, workers enter data for purposes of accounting and tax filings. Therefore, Penske is componentizing almost every business process, including routine administration and data entry in what is currently called offshore outsourcing. It has outsourced people to execute routine information systems work from as far as India. These people are tasked with routine programming to support Penske ISs, clerical and management jobs in engineering, procurement, human resources and logistics Andel (2011).

According to Andel (2011), offshore outsourcing has lead to severe loss of jobs especially in developed countries such the U.S and Europe whereby computer services jobs are shifted to inexpensive countries such as India where similar results can be derived.

From a business perspective, offshore outsourcing is a rewarding global corporate strategy as it lowers costs, improved performance and expands business coverage. However, it tends to shift job opportunities from high-wage nations to low-wage ones leading to unemployment or forcing people to take pay cuts to retain their jobs therefore globalization has set stage for grounding competent workers. Research by Information Resources Management Association (2011) has indicated that without outsourcing from India, the U.S would have experienced a severe IS labor shortage, increased ISs costs, and reduced spending on ISs.

2.4 Nestle

Founded in 1986, Nestle S.A. is the global leader in food and beverage production. Nestle has its headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland and operates in 200 countries with approximately 250,000 workers stationed at its 500 facilities (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).

Traditionally, Nestle allowed every local company to do business according to local conditions and cultures as the local management saw fit. This decentralized strategy was supported by 80 independent IT units, but the management learnt that these different local units created significant inefficiencies and costs, and hindered effective e-commerce (Blackshaw 2014). Nestle lacked standard business processes thus it was unable to leverage its global buying power so as to get its raw materials at lower prices since each factory negotiated its prices independently.

Weiss & Drewry (2013) notes that Nestle adopted a program to coordinate and standardize its business processes and ISs by initially installing SAP R/3 ERP to integrate its applications in the U.S., Canada and Europe with the hope of achieving effective promotions, and reduced spoilage and overstocking. Nestle facilities run SAP ERP differently using different data formatting schemes leading to system disparities and increased maintenance costs. It was difficult to compile company-wide financial reports as well as viewing performance. It has been tough for Nestle to achieve global standards of business processes, with Nescafe becoming the only brand to get global attention.

In 2000, Peter Brabeck, the CEO of Nestle launched GLOBE (Global Business Excellence), a US $2.4 billion initiative focused on adopting an integrated IS and business processes for procurement, and sales and distribution management. GLOBE was to harmonize business processes, and standardize data and systems globally for Nestle business units to share processes for undertaking sales commitments, creating production schedules, customer billing, and management and financial reporting. This was vital in making Nestle operate like it was in a single country. By 2005, GLOBE had resulted to faster and better demand forecasts and financial reports. However, GLOBE failed to control IT/IS costs calling for a review so as to protect Nestlé’s profits and by 2006 costs were considerably reduced and the company started operating efficiently as one unit globally (K. Laudon & P. Laudon 2013).   

From these case studies, it is evident that if a company develops a perfect global information system, then it is better placed to serve its customers regardless of uniqueness of their locations.

3.0 Enablers for GIS

Senior management support including funding is vital GIS success (Phillips & Gully 2011). Weiss & Drewry (2013) asserts that at Nestle, Peter Brabeck, the CEO initiated GLOBE which saw Nestle effectively operate globally under an integrated IS.  In addition, Brabeck spent $ 2.4 billion on GLOBE while it costs approximately $ 40 million to construct a coffee factory. Well understood and capable business processes extending to an effective global strategy is another enabler (Galliers & Currie 2011). According to Wuttke, Blome, Foerstl & Henke 2013) effective business processes eases the design and implementation process, and clear GIS project goals. Avnet developed “Cookbook” which entailed all elements of its business processes leading to smooth acquisitions and global performance. Cross-functional teams represent the whole business knowledge thus Nestlé’s GLOBE initiative shows greater representation of different business areas in their GIS leading to success.

Growth of internet, and presence of global data standards, for example UNICODE and EDIFACT that facilitate global computing has enabled DHL, Nestle, and Avnet to truly achieve their GISs, as Steinfield, Marcus & Wigand (2011) notes: increased ability to share data across different platforms is supported by global communication technology – internet and data standards.

Moller & Chaudhry (2012) argues that effective change management allows a business to effectively handle any unforeseen challenges and risks.  

According to Stair & Reynolds (2011), appropriate training of users is a fundamental success factor for GIS, for example, Avnet has adopted a knowledge-based use of IS in that the effort needed in user learning is greatly considered before implemented an IS. 

4.0 Barriers to GIS

A company that wishes to implement a GIS faces a number of barriers including:

  • Presence of different political systems, cultures – norms, attitudes, values, and behaviours, laws and regulations. For example, the U.S intends to ban offshore outsourcing which may greatly impact on Penske global operations (Stair & Reynolds 2011).
  • Xu & Quaddus (2013) claims that physical differences between different locations, for example differences in currency, time zone, and language is a significant barrier to GIS. Further, they cite Incurred costs from IT/IS investments are a big challenge. For example, Nestlé’s GLOBE initiative incurred costs exceeding those of setting up a new coffee factory.
  • Ola & Bendik (2013) claims that rapidly changing IT/ISs results to some regions lacking critical technical infrastructure and competency to handle GIS. Eventually, this leads to offshore outsourcing or moving professionals to and from different regional sites which may be costly.

5.0 References

Andel, T. 2011, ‘Car Makers Gaining Traction’, Material Handling & Logistics, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 46-61.

Bidgoli, H 2011, MIS2, 2nd edn, Cengage Learning.

Blackshaw, P. 2014, ‘Keynote comments Digital transformation at Nestlé: Playing to win’, Journal of Brand Strategy, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 7-10.

Galliers, R.D. & Currie, W 2011, The Oxford Handbook of Management Information Systems: Critical Perspectives and New Directions, Oxford University Press.

Gina, R. 2013, ‘Avnet Unifies Global IT Services Business’, Channel Insider, 6 May, pp. 1-2.

Information Resources Management Association 2011, Enterprise Information Systems: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications, Idea Group Inc (IGI).

Lalit, W. & Kent, D 2012, ‘Supply Chain Visibility and Cost to Serve Analysis: An Avnet Case Study’, SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT REVIEW, 12 September, viewed 3 September 2014, <http://www.scmr.com/article/supply_chain_visibility_and_cost_to_serve_analysis_an_avnet_case_study>

Laudon, K. & Laudon P 2013, Management Information Systems, 12th edn, Prentice Hall.

Moller, C. & Chaudhry, S 2012, Advances in Enterprise Information Systems II, CRC Press.

Ola, H., & Bendik, B. 2013, ‘THE GENERATIVE MECHANISMS OF DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE EVOLUTION’, MIS Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 907-1005.

Phillips, J. & Gully, S 2011, Organizational Behavior: Tools for Success, Cengage Learning, Natorp Boulevard.

Research and Markets 2011, ‘DHL Sustainability Case Study – Various Sustainability Efforts and Initiatives’, Business Wire, 25 January, pp. 3-24.

Stair, R. & Reynolds, G 2011, Principles of Information Systems, 10th edn, Cengage Learning, Stamford.

Steinfield, C., Marcus, M.L., & Wigand, R.T. 2011, ‘Through a Glass Clearly: Standards, Architecture, and Process Transparency in Global Supply Chains’, Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 78-105.

Weiss, M. & Drewry, J 2013, ‘Finding the Global/Local Balance’, CIO, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 20-21.

Wuttke, D.A., Blome, C., Foerstl, K. & Henke, M. 2013, ‘Managing the Innovation Adoption of Supply Chain Finance-Empirical Evidence From Six European Case Studies’, Journal of Business Logistics, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 149-164.

Xu, J. &  Quaddus, M 2013, Managing Information Systems: Ten Essential Topics, Springer Science & Business Media.

6.0 Appendices

Appendix A: Implementation of GIS at DHL

 

 

Appendix B: Barriers to GIS

Appendix C: Developing countries have lower accessibility to the U.S. and Europe

Computer forensics

Computer forensics

Introduction

Computer forensics is the field of gathering, analyzing and producing reports of digital information in a manner that satisfies legal admissibility requirements. It can be applied in cases of crime detection and prevention and in other disputes where available evidence is digitally stored (Francia & Clinton, 2005).

Computer forensics as a discipline is undertaken in forensic crime labs to find, analyze and report on evidence based on digital data and subsequent safe storage.

This paper seeks to analyze the basic operations of a computer forensics laboratory and considers a number of factors including: National standards that certify forensic testing labs, lab components, working conditions, standard lab equipment, and selected tools for computer memory analysis.

National standards that certify forensic testing labs

Senft & Gallegos (2010) argued that there is a question as to what best practices or standards are put in place in computer forensics field to address complexities in evidence collection, storage and presentation while adhering to controls that protect the evidence from accidental or malicious loss or change.  There exist documented, appropriate and validated standards that govern accreditation of computer forensics crime laboratories. The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accrediting Board (ASCLD/LAB) has been the forensics crime laboratories accrediting board since 1982. Such bodies have established standards that must be met in order to be accredited. Specifically, a stand-alone forensics testing unit have to extensively document and show its compliance with approximately stated set of standards.

According to Senft & Gallegos (2010), these standards are:

  • A training program extended to all employees to develop essential technical skills in all applicable functional units.
  • Technical procedures and toolkits must be validated in order to demonstrate their efficiency and effectiveness in examining forensic evidence before being applied on casework.
  • Equipments and instruments must be adequate for investigation procedures used and be maintained in good working condition. In addition, control samples should be used and be well documented in the record to maintain validity of the forensic testing parameters, and consequently the conclusion.
  • Documented procedures and policies for identification, collection, and protection of digital evidence from potential loss, alteration or contamination.
  • Equipments and instruments should be appropriately calibrated and records of calibration maintained for future reference. Sampling equipment must be checked to ensure that they meet the laboratory requirements relevant to investigations.
  • Forensic examiners stationed at a lab must undergo a competency test successfully covering a diverse set of forensics disciplines and maintain proficiency through constant training.
  • Acceptable conformance to marking and sealing of forensic evidence.
  • Ensure that forensic testing can be adequately supported by legally sound and forensically sufficient digital evidence.
  • The lab must demonstrate practical personnel health and safety measures.

These standards according to Nelson, Amelia & Steuart (2009) ensures that lab operations, management, staff, equipment, personnel, procedures, security, plant, safety and health measures meet laid down national requirements.

Lab components

Forensic laboratory components are the tools and procedures that aid in detection, collection, and analysis of evidence samples for further determination and reporting. The components include but not limited to (Francia & Clinton, 2005):

  • Architectural design covering special concern to environmental and personnel health and safety.
  • In addition, labs should have a physical facility that can preserve the correctness of the digital evidence and operations done there.
  • Elements for safeguarding exposure to hazardous substances or devices.
  • Computing and communication components.
  • Elements that provide operational efficiency and adaptability.
  • Procedures and devices for securing digital evidence to ensure preservation in an untainted condition. An example is an evidence container – heavy-duty safe or file cabinet.
  • Workbenches and conference rooms as well as shelves for internal reading library.
  • Special purpose units with integrated forensic crime processing tools capable of effectively handling of challenging computer crime cases.

Working conditions

Francia & Clinton (2005) asserted that computer forensics lab environment depends on the nature of cases under investigation, for instance the level of confidentiality of the forensic investigation.

 Occupational health and safety procedures must be put in place to protect personnel and lab facility from risks (Giannelli, 2007). Furniture and equipment must be appropriate for work done with relation to occupational safety. Ergonomic considerations are a must at labs and workplaces must be adjustable and have adequate lighting (Nelson et al., 2009).

Special air conditioning is necessary in lab environments to ensure that personnel feel comfortable while working in the lab. In addition, personnel must be provided with preventive equipment to safeguard against personal injury. This includes: Latex gloves, ear protection, coats, and protective eyewear at minimum (Francia & Clinton, 2005).

Proper signage is necessary to provide quick directions to eye or face wash, first aid toolkit, emergency telephone contacts, safety showers, fire extinguishers, fire evacuation directions and warning to forensic investigators.  As a safety precaution, Senft & Gallegos (2010) noted that corridors, exit ways and hallways should always be kept clear for easy movement in case of an incident.

Standard lab equipment

Digital forensics involves a number of equipments capable of assisting in deriving evidence that can be used in a court of law. Standard lab equipment includes (Francia & Clinton, 2005; Senft & Gallegos, 2010):

  • Computer hardware and software and digital peripherals. Forensics investigations and analysis software such as EnCase Forensic.
  • Write blockers that provide forensically sound view of almost all storage devices without possibility of accidental damage to drive contents.
  • Digital audio and video devices, for example, iPods, MP3 players, video surveillance devices, digital cameras, scanners, and facial and audio recognition devices.
  • A combination of audio and video devices, for example, CDs, DVDs, USB drives and hard drives.
  • Computer and drive interface connectors and adapters, such as IDE, SATA, MicroSATA, ZIF and SCSI interface adapters.
  • Microprobe equipment to investigate damaged tiny elements.
  • Digital communication devices, for example, iPhones and cell phones.
  • Anti-static toolkit.

Selected tools for computer memory analysis

With increased popularity and accomplishments in computer forensics, memory forensics tools have greatly proliferated and their capability have improved (Giannelli, 2007). Recent tools have made memory analysis feasible to forensic crime examiners as a result of better interfaces, detection heuristics and documentation. Memory analysis is important because it allows examiners to provide a clearer image of memory by including the systems page file (Sanderson, 2006).

Sanderson (2006) highlighted the following memory analysis tools include:

  • Mandiant Memoryze: A free software that perform live memory analysis and among the first tools in the field.
  • PTFinder: Searches the memory dump of systems running on Windows for bits of threads and processes and places results into a text editor such as Notepad.
  • Volatility Framework: An open set of tools under free software for extraction of forensic artefacts from RAM samples. In addition, it supports third party plug-in.
  • MemGator: A memory file audit tool that automatically extract memory file data and compile a report.
  • Redline: Designed to ease memory forensics and attract larger audience. It audits system memory to provide live analysis.

Conclusion

It is evident that computing technology may amount to a crime scene, for example, denial of service attacks and hacking among others or it may hold tangible evidence in form of digital files, emails or internet history which are relevant to criminal activities such as fraud, drug trafficking, or even murder. Digital evidence is mainly galvanized in computer forensics labs where examination is well supported to ensure that the data achieved is legally admissible.

This paper has discussed basic operations of a computer forensics lab by focusing on national standards that govern implementation of labs, lab components, working conditions such as occupational health and safety, typical lab equipment and memory analysis tools.

References

Francia, G.A., & Clinton, K. (2005). Computer forensics laboratory and tools. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges. 20(6): 142-149.

Giannelli, P.C. (2007). Forensic Science. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 33(3): 535-545.

Nelson, B., Amelia, P., & Steuart, C. (2009). Guide to Computer Forensics and Investigations. Cengage Learning.

Sanderson, P. (2006). Mass image classification. Digital Investigations. 3(4): 191–196.

Senft, S., & Gallegos, F. (2010). Information Technology Control and Audit (3rd ed.). CRC Press.

Report for the Department for Communities and Local Government

Report for the Department for Communities and Local Government

Executive summary

This is a report for the Department for Communities and Local Government to recommend remediation measures for mistakes made on the FiReControl project. It focuses on leadership and planning with respect to project management, and provides recommendations for future projects. Project leadership and management are recommended for the Department to ensure there are adequate resourcing, motivated team, and project ownership, along with provision of a pathway to guide in the FiReControl project implementation. This way, the chances of project failure are significantly reduced.

1.0 Introduction. 3

1.1 Brief background of the project. 4

2.0 Discussion on two areas of project management. 5

2.1 Project leadership. 5

2.2 Project planning. 7

3.0 Conclusions. 8

4.0 Recommendations. 8

5.0 References. 11

1.0 Introduction

Project management entails planning and organizing resources, protocols and procedures to accomplish particular objectives in a problem of interest (Vidal & Marle 2008). Ajmal, Helo & Kekale (2010) argues that a project is typically a temporary pursuit aimed at delivering a certain product or service to deliver beneficial change, for example, added value. By default, a project has a defined starting point and end, and is normally constrained in terms of time, deliverables or milestones, or funding. These constraints require to be addressed appropriately to increase the chances of successful project implementation. Project management is primarily challenged by addressing pre-conceived constraints to achieve the project goals and objectives (Gido & Clements 2014).

The FiRe control project was uninitiated in 2004 to streamline the fire response infrastructure technologically, and was scheduled to be completed by October 2009. The Department for Communities and Local Government contracted European Air and Defence Systems (EADS) was contracted to design, develop and deploy the IT system. However, the project was marred by a number of cost escalation and delays over its lifecycle (National Audit Office 2012). This report seeks to communicate two areas of project management – project leadership and project planning, and ultimately provide recommendations for future projects.  

1.1 Brief background of the project        

Initiated in 2004, the FiReControl project was aimed at establishing 9 purpose-built local control centres to replace the control rooms of 46 Fire and Rescue Services across England. The backbone of the project rested on using an IT system to technologically link the previous 46 control rooms as a means of bolstering efficiency and resiliency in the area of handling calls, mobilizing equipment and managing incidents. The project failed miserably and the Department for Communities and Local Government opted to terminate it after 7 years (December 2010) to cut increasing losses. Unfortunately, approximately £465 million had already been wasted at the time of termination with no delivery of the IT system. Additionally, 8 out of 9 new control centres remained costly to run and empty (National Audit Office 2012).

According to the National Audit Office (2011), the FiRe Control project failed from the start due to flaws that could be attributed to lack of support from essential personnel, mainly drawn from the local Fire and Rescue Services. In addition, the project was rushed, thus failing to adhere to proper procedures or plans. There were also ineffective balances and checks in the early phases, meaning the Department based its commitment on inaccurate estimates of the project’s costs and benefits as well as unrealistic delivery time schedule. The Department also agreed on an insufficient contract with the IT vendor, alongside under appreciating the underlying complexity, thus mismanaging the performance as well as the delivery timetable of the IT contractor. Necessary leadership was also not available to ensure the project was successful. Instead, the project team over-relied on poorly managed consultancy personnel and failed to address early issues with delivery.

2.0 Discussion on two areas of project management

2.1 Project leadership

In project management, leadership is more than mere project managers. Project leaders possess highly desirable collection leadership skills and technical capacity to drive projects towards optimal performance, and ultimately success (Schwalbe 2009). Turner (2014) argues that leadership skills optimize project performance. As such, it is important to have a collection of specific leadership skills and qualities as a platform for successful implementation of a project. What are the desirable qualities for effective project leadership? This is a question that has gained increased momentum in the project management arena. Based on a study by Soderholm (2008), the following are the intrinsic characteristics of effective project leadership:

  • Capacity to instigate a collective vision: effective project leadership often possesses an overall vision of the intended goal and the capacity to communicate it in an articulate way. This implies that leadership requires a visionary approach. Visionaries succeed in change management and drawing new boundaries to ensure that set project goals and objectives are adequately addressed. A leader must have the capability to lift teams and members up by giving the vision and driving the spirit of change. A collective vision driven by strong leadership promotes the feeling of truly owning a stake in a given project by empowering people to be part of the cause throughout the project lifecycle.

Competent leadership inspires, encourages and models the stakeholder community to work as a team. Consequently, there is strong collaboration across team members, which drives a project towards success.

  • Good communication capability: leadership must be able to communicate with people spread across all hierarchical levels. Clear communication is necessary to ensure that project teams understand the project goals and objectives as well as their responsibilities towards achieving them. In addition, stakeholders must be given feedback about progress to know what is expected of them, for example, senior management may be required to provide more funding. Effective communication forms the platform for successful negotiation and persuasion which helps establish a strong link between all stakeholders.

In project management, strong leadership promotes strategic and tactical awareness, thus bolstering the strategic significance of a specific project across stakeholders (Meredith & Mantel 2011). This facilitates creation of a project that considers all internal and external impacts, thus building a solid platform for undertaking all activities while avoiding potential risks.

Leadership is critical to successful project implementation because team members listen and rely on the person(s) at the top-most level of the project’s organizational structure (Heagney 2012).  Basically, leadership is analogous to change sponsorship as it forms the body that makes people believe and work towards change. Senior leaders provide credibility and authority required for change, whether it involves new systems, processes, organization structures or job roles. Blichfeldt & Eskerod (2008) argues that senior management presence demonstrates its commitment as well as that of their organizations. As a result, the degree of resistance is reduced, and the progress of the project is bolstered.

Visible, committed and active top leadership sponsorship is one of the most critical contributing factors to project success (Reiss 2013). Sponsorship plays an integral role in ensuring that there are required personnel, funds and equipment to support a project throughout its project lifecycle. Senior management support is the most critical success factor for project implementation (Hwang & Tan 2012).

2.2 Project planning

Project planning entails creation of an approved schedule to guide in execution and control with regard to cost and time scheduling, risk mitigation and quality control. It also defines the communication plan to convey all ideas and progress – true organizational nature, issues that need to be resolved, and accomplishments at different stages. Planning provides a way of organizing actions to fulfill the project goal (Turner 2014).

Project planning primarily documents a summary of planning decisions and assumptions and approved scope (Heagney 2012). It plays a key role in defining the approach and control measures that may be used to ensure that the intended project goal is delivered (Phillips 2009). Typically, project planning answers the following four basic questions with respect to the project at hand: why – the value proposition to be addressed or why the project should be sponsored; what – the work or activities to be performed and the major milestones and/or deliverables; who – the people to be involved in the project and their responsibilities; and when – the project time schedule to reach particular meaning points (Vidal & Marle 2008).

Phillips (2009) argues that a project plan basically derives from industry standards, for example, PRINCE2 and PMBOK, and must describe the overall steps in execution and control. As a best practice, formal agreement across relevant stakeholders should be pursued prior to approval of a project plan. In addition, approval should be sought in the early phases of a project and appropriate control measures applied to correct any deviations from the plan (Whitty & Maylor 2009).   

Compromising project planning attracts disasters. The initiation stage is critical to project success since it establishes the core foundation of a project, and planning should be the first consideration in the phase (Whitty & Maylor 2009). Failure to plan can damage stakeholder engagement, benefits and scheduling (Schwalbe 2009). After all, planning provides the path to be followed towards meeting defined goals and objectives. Gido & Clements (2014) argues that the main factors behind project failure include: poor stakeholder engagement, lack of proper communication, and poor definition of roles and responsibilities. Therefore, these factors should be considered in the initiation and planning phases of any project.

3.0 Conclusions

It is evident that, fundamentally, projects are constrained by scope, resourcing – funding and human resources, time and quality, which need to be properly managed to achieve the defined goal.

Strong leadership plays a key role in overcoming the project constraints as well as in supporting change management through direct communication and commitment to the specific cause. Basically, leadership entails provision of necessary resources and actual direction towards achieving project goals and objectives.

On the other hand, project planning identifies prevailing constraints to provide proper remediation. With project planning, the clarity of project goals and objectives, and roles and responsibilities is greatly improved, and stakeholders are more likely to perform their tasks effectively and efficiently.

4.0 Recommendations

For example, the Department for Communities and Local Government failed to offer the appropriate leadership and make the FiReControl project successful. Over relying on insufficiently managed consultants led to failure in addressing early problems. 

The following things are needed to ensure that top leadership help drive successful project implementation:

  • The top leadership needs to clearly understand its role in implementing the project. Senior management forms a key body in project implementation by forming the backbone for engaging all stakeholders in the development process. This entails concrete readiness, capacity and willingness to implement a project.
  • Leadership must sell a project to the stakeholders and the wider organization. This helps create a sense of ownership across the organization, thus overcoming resistance issues. Effective feedback platform is important for channeling concerns stakeholders may have as well as taking relevant steps to overcome issues that may arise.
  • Leadership should provide necessary resources (funding and human resources) to sustain the project. The FiReControl was affecting all the 26 fire control centres, thus it required large-scale investment in terms of time and funds to boost long-term success.
  • Plan realistically to avoid inefficiencies and disruptions to the actual project plan. This calls for seeking agreement across all stakeholders to identify potential project risks.
  • Communicate effectively with stakeholders and motivate project team members to undertake the project. The FiReControl project experienced flaws because essential stakeholders could not be reached and involved, for example, the local Fire and Rescue Services.
  • Support measures to deal with existing and potential difficulties – organizational change, disorientation of people, low employee morale, and time and cost overruns.
  • Consider strategic consequences of implementing a project considering the size of modules that need to be installed to meet the needs of the overall organization.

It is apparent that the FiReControl project was not properly planned right from the initial stages. Without proper planning, the project had minimal chances of success as there were unrealistic cost estimates and its scope was not well defined. In fact, the project was terminated to avoid additional money wastages. The future of the project was not ascertained, thus complexities in the underlying IT solutions could not be identified upfront. Proper planning could play a significant role in driving the FiReControl project towards successful implementation. As the single unifying factor in complex projects such as the FiReControl, project planning draws the attention of all stakeholders. In the FiReControl project, planning could have enabled all stakeholders to work towards achieving the same goal. Project planning helps make decisions to influence the future, that is, the tasks that need to be performed, how they will be executed – the sequence and approaches, and the roles and responsibilities assigned to each stakeholder.

Project leadership and management are recommended to ensure that required resources are available, team members remain motivated, and project ownership is upheld and that there is a pathway guiding the FiReControl project implementation. In addition, planning provides a platform for ongoing communication on project progress alongside issues that need to be addressed. This way, the chances of project failure will be significantly reduced.

5.0 References

Ajmal, M, Helo, P, & Kekale, T 2010, ‘Critical factors for knowledge management in project business’, Journal of knowledge management, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 156-168.

Blichfeldt, BS, & Eskerod, P 2008, ‘Project portfolio management–There’s more to it than what management enacts’, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 357-365.

Gido, J, & Clements, J 2014, Successful project management, Cengage Learning.

Heagney, J 2012, Fundamentals of project management, AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.

Hwang, BG, & Tan, JS 2012, ‘Green building project management: obstacles and solutions for sustainable development’, Sustainable Development, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 335-349.

Meredith, JR, & Mantel SJ, 2011, Project management: a managerial approach, John Wiley & Sons.

National Audit Office 2012, The failure of the FiReControl project, National Audit Office, viewed 29 June 2015, <http://www.nao.org.uk/report/the-failure-of-the-firecontrol-project/>

Phillips, J 2009, PMP® Project Management Professional Study Guide, McGraw-Hill Ltd.

Reiss, G 2013, Project management demystified: Today’s tools and techniques, Routledge.

Schwalbe, K, 2009, Information technology project management, Cengage Learning.

Soderholm, A 2008, ‘Project management of unexpected events’, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 80-86.

Turner, JR, 2014, The handbook of project-based management, McGraw-hill.

Vidal, LA, & Marle, F 2008, ‘Understanding project complexity: implications on project management’, Kybernetes, vol. 37, no. 8, pp. 1094-1110.

Whitty, SJ, & Maylor, H 2009, ‘And then came complex project management’, International Journal of Project Management, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 304-310.

Expansion of an IT

Expansion of an IT start-up in providing a software solution for Care homes in UK

INTRODUCTION

Generally, strategic management is concerned with how an organisation’s top management formulates and executes key goals, policies, and plans to meet specific objectives in an environment constrained by resources and a collection of other dynamic internal and external factors (Wit & Meyer 2010). The major competitive advantage strategies that will be considered in this review include product/service differentiation, cost leadership, and operational excellence. The literature highlights the problem areas within care homes and then shows the opportunities that are there for an IT start-up with care home support solutions for the problems. The literature also connects the problems areas with strategic management paradoxes such as market-driven or resource-driven and the paradox of profitability and responsibility. This approach will help relate the strategic perspective of the care home industry for the development of a well-researched IT solution to support care home organizations deliver their services to the needs and expectations of their customers. As one of the major enablers of competitiveness, transforming customer demands and expectations into valuable care services in a market context faced by dynamic internal and external factors require a strategic approach to achieve the desired growth as well as competitiveness.

THE PROBLEM AREAS WITHIN CARE HOMES

Increasingly growing demand for personalized care services

There has been growing demand for personalized care services over the past ten years – a trend that can be attributed to the increasing number of persons with intricate care and support needs. For example, more than 20% of the elderly people above 65 years in the UK are care home residents and the number of persons with over 65 years old is expected to rise by close to 40% by 2033 (Age UK Organisation 2016; Ruddick 2015). Furthermore, the demand for beds in UK care homes is set to increase by 15% by 2040, further challenging the quality of care services provided to the elderly (Age UK Organisation 2016).

Coordination of specialists from different fields

Maintaining active communications between care professionals poses challenges across many care home settings. The issue is even more complicated when several care practitioners are offering services to one or more persons with intricate care needs, principally because the persons involved (usually care professionals and regulators) are required to share their individual piece of information for a comprehensive understanding of the specific conditions of a patient or client and timely and accurate tracking of changes. In addition, there is a wide array of regulations and agency policies that need to be navigated and complied with by the care providers to assure high-quality services. Unfortunately, some information does not always get to the right persons due to communication and coordination challenges that inhibit efforts to streamline the underlying processes (Paquet 2016). These are problems that can greatly inhibit the quality of care and support services in a care home organization.

Keeping care recipients and their family members adequately informed

While active communications between care givers and associated professionals to enable them stay updated with what is going on, even care recipients and their family members must be kept informed. Care home organizations need to come up with methods of making sure that the right members within a patient’s circle understand appropriate information about symptoms and medications or treatment. Keeping care recipients and their family members adequately informed is especially important when dealing with clients with intricate care needs because there are high chances of undergoing extended treatments, visiting more practitioners, and taking more medications compared to clients with basic chronic conditions. In such intricate care need scenarios, a patient may end up forgetting to take a certain medication or fail to meet a care-related appointment. In practice, maintaining an informed population of clients and authorised family members is a challenging exercise (Ott 2015; Paquet 2016).

Security and safety of staff and clients

The security and safety of clients in care homes is paramount as it helps prevent a number of dangers. For example, a dementia patient may exit the care home without the attention of care providers and be hit by a speeding motorist. Even within the care facilities, a patient may gain entry into a sloppy area and slide, leading to unwanted fractures. Staff may also be attacked by outsiders while in the line of duty (Victor 2010).

Growing financial pressures

The general care industry continue to face financial pressures as governments come up with reforms to cut the costs of care home and nursing home support (Lopez  & Dupuis 2014). In the UK, the gap between the costs of care homes and the funding for the vulnerable aged population by the local authorities is widening, implying that approximately 50% of the UK’s care home opportunities could disappear since providers may go under. The Southern Cross (one of the biggest care home organizations) collapse in 2010 still hangs over the UK care home sector, causing immense worry and uncertainty for close to 31,000 of its clients and their family members. It was until the competitors of Southern Cross agreed to step forward and rescue a good number of the residents (Ruddick 2015). Simply put, the decline in government-based reimbursements to care organizations necessitates tightened cost controls in order to maintain sustained operations without withdrawing a number of services. In fact, closures in the care home industry may exceed new openings if managers in these organizations do not develop measures to combat rising costs. As one of the controls, care agencies have turned to low salaries and benefits. Consequently, care homes have one of the highest staff turnovers in the service sector and continue to face problems in recruitment. The dilemma is felt across local and national boundaries, thus it is challenging for care homes to meet the service demands for their clients without sufficient staffing levels.  Moreover, necessary funding is constrained by the need for specialised medical facilities to cater for intensive treatments in care homes (Cousins et al. 2016).

Even worse, high property rents and costs related to debts, capital expenditure, and maintenance are making care homes in the UK feel the squeeze. Four Seasons with 470 homes and approximately 22,000 beds is close to experiencing a new crisis since it is losing pounds in excess of millions per year and struggling with £500 million in debts (Ruddick 2015). Medication management issues

The major challenge facing care homes is the capacity to provide adequate and appropriate medical care to clients suffering from frail health conditions. While in poor health, clients are likely to rapidly deteriorate in their condition id subjected to insufficient and improper treatment or medication (Quadagno & Stahl 2003). Efforts pursued in recent years are mainly focused on establishing quality standards that can be measured in a scheduled manner to serve the purpose of care quality certification, service improvement and effectiveness, proper leadership or management, and regulation. In addition, quality standards are aimed at forming the basis for consumers to make their decisions about seeking the services of a care home in terms of the degree of responsiveness to their needs (Care Quality Commission 2012).

Leisure and wellness management issues

Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulations prioritise nutrition and hydration assessments in care homes. This can be attributed to the fact that poor nutrition and hydration is a recipe for severe health and wellness problems to resident satisfaction. Moreover, relatives and friends tend to be dissatisfied with care homes that provide poor levels of nutrition and hydration (Care Quality Commission 2012; Letts et al. 2011).

OPPORTUNITIES FOR A START-UP IT FIRM IN RELATION TO ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM AREAS

Basically, how can care agencies continue delivering high-quality and more-efficient services in a sustainable way in the wake of growing demand? Is IT a viable solution, or is it just a hyped solution? Lopez and Dupuis (2014) argues that the care home sector is in the process of a massive technological revolution aimed at transforming  the industry’s businesses as shown by statistics released by companies such as Lucintel. Legacy technological systems continue to be replaced with modern faster and increasingly powerful technologies. Care technology advancements are taking place at an ever increasing rate for applications such as autonomous health monitoring, pharmaceutical administrations, and others (Halvorson 2013).

Agencies such as the National Information Board (NIB) are working towards putting technology and data to social work for citizens, service users, and care professionals to assure improved and sustainable care and health. There are proposals intended to bring change for people to be in a position to access their care records in digitized formats and make the UK a leader in digital health and care economy through best use of technology and data. Technology-enabled care services may help commissioners, carers, and patients enjoy maximized value of technology in the healthcare economy. The CQC is involved in the inspection of UK’s care homes twice a year or once in two years depending on quality performance trends, and technology-enabled care services can help a care home maintain or even improve its rating. This is because technology directly supports the care delivery process by enabling the following major areas:

  • Safety: clients are protected from avoidable harm and abuse. As a solution to security and safety risks, the care home perimeter should be secured by CCTV camera systems. Moreover, dangerous zones and doors should be alarmed and actively monitored.
  • Effectiveness: clients are assured of the life they choose to live, quality of life, and best health.
  • Responsiveness: services are well organized.
  • Proper leadership: the management inspires personalised and high-quality care while at the same time promoting a fair and transparent culture (Maczka, Parry & Curry 2016,).

The findings from a review conducted by South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA), a network of social care and health providers, research and academic institutions, government agencies, and policymakers to investigate the extent to which technology has been deployed in the care sector shows that IT deployments in this industry has been insignificant – only about 40% of care homes use technologically-enabled solutions in their service delivery. Apparently, adoption is skewed towards providing staff with care service-related information such as personnel visits to residents, updating care records, and raising alerts in case of missed staff visits and fall incidents, electronic care records and document handling, telehealth, and video-enabled rehabilitation consoles. In addition, the study showed that close to 80% of care homes still rely on paper-based record management approaches (Maczka, Parry & Curry 2016). Common technologies used in any organisation such as staff-rostering software, finance and accounting systems, corporate websites, and social media and text-messaging have immense potential for care homes (Wood 2015).

With service improvement being a must to attract more clients and to avoid legal and regulatory compliance risks that may lead to loss of registration, care homes need to adopt technology as they stand to gain immense benefits. Technology-enabled care services stand to eliminate possibilities of one or more key inspection criteria being rated as ‘ Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’ by demonstrating evidence of compliance with good care standards such as absence of medication errors (Lane 2013). Therefore, technology can help remedy the problem areas in the care home sector; it can reduce inconsistencies in care delivery and meet regulatory standards and industry best practices.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CARE HOME PROBLEMS AREAS WITH STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT’S MARKET-DRIVEN OR RESOURCE-DRIVEN PARADOXES

A market-driven strategy basically allows s a business better understand the market and its customers towards achieving a competitive advantage and developing long-term relationships with the customers. Therefore, when formulating the strategy, the primary logic rests on understanding the market and customers in the market. This way it is possible to gain competitor intelligence, determine unique capabilities and offer outstanding customer value – actions critical to achieving superior business performance (Sciarelli 2008). Rothaermel (2012) adds cross-functional coordination as another key market-driven requirement. On the other hand, a resource-driven strategy perceives resources as critical to superior business performance and sustainable competitive advantage. The argument behind this strategic approach is that a company should leverage its internal sources of competitiveness as opposed to the external competitive environment (Adamides 2015; De Wit & Meyer 2010). In the context of care home industry, the market may be considered to be both market-driven and resource-driven because of its underlying characteristics.

Care homes appear to be market-oriented – a business culture that is mainly focused on meeting the customer (resident or c are recipient) needs, providing outstanding customer value, and satisfying customers. In the course of running business, care homes adopt IT systems as a major step towards improving their service delivery efficiencies, effectiveness, and quality as part of competing successfully. For example, in a study conducted to investigate the major technology trends across the aged-care market, Wood (2015) discovered the following key findings:

  • The cost of aged care will continue to rise with increasing population of the aged persons in comparison to the younger population.
  • Not every senior will be in a position to afford private care and medical insurance.
  • People yearn for retaining their independence and enhanced social life by receiving specialised care within their residential homes.
  • Governments are working on ways through which they can limit the reliance of the ageing population on care home and hospital facilities.

The abovementioned findings are trends that care homes can consider to gain sound understanding of the market’s demands, regulations, and customer s for better market-orientation and customer value creation. Adamides (2015) describes customer focus as a market-driven requirement that seeks to understand the needs and responses of customers in relation to the delivered product (in this case care services).  Medication management is largely a market-driven strategy in that technological systems designed to facilitate medicine prescription, order fulfilment, checking, reconciliation, dispensation, and record management contribute to improved patient (client) health. This is achieved through a number of ways: minimised medication errors, reduced adverse incidents, and improved visibility and accuracy in relation to medication information (Maczka, Parry & Curry 2016). The technological approach to addressing leisure and wellness management issuesis largely customer-focused as it seeks to support healthy and safe client independence, social integration and community engagement, and remote monitoring of patients’ sleep, and nutrition, and hydration statuses. These are resident (customer) needs that should be met in the delivery of leisure and wellness services in care homes. As such, introduction of technological solutions to resolve potential issues in leisure and wellness management is a market-driven strategy. Giving the right information to clients and authorized family members through timely and clear explanations and instructions would be critical to improving the efficiencies of medication and tracking appropriate developments in the health of residents (Paquet 2016); another market-driven strategy since it is mainly intended to deliver outstanding resident value. Coming up with cost controls to overcome the financial pressures caused by the decline in government-based reimbursements to care organizations is an obvious market-orientation strategy. These issues evidently show that care homes are largely oriented to the social care market and residents (its customers) to gain distinctive organizational capabilities that may see improved customer value-creation, superior business performance, and competitiveness.

With the perspective of the strategy being a resource-driven one, the enabler of sustainable competitiveness could be the capability of a care home to take advantage of valuable, unique, and rare IT systems and skills at its disposal to meet the value requirements of customers by delivering superior care services. Therefore, in the context of this research, care home organizations ought to seek ways through which they can coordinate and completely exploit the potential of their technological resources at their disposal to bolster their overall performance and competitiveness. How can technology help achieve competitive advantage in a care home?  To start with, systems such as automatic meeting scheduling tools may help management and staffs hold timely discussion meetings in response to emerging incidents and complaints for continuous service quality improvements.  Secondly, GPS alarms and fall detectors may create opportunities for providing autonomous care. Thirdly, staff may be considered excellent by care management empowering them using Electronic health records and document management systems (EHRDMS), lone-worker security tools, and communication, collaboration, and knowledge transfer technologies (Maczka, Parry & Curry 2016). Collaboration and knowledge transfer systems are especially useful in the care homes because they can help improve information and knowledge management efforts in a sector plagued by challenged staff retention and turnover problems. EHRDMS is an extremely important solution to helping care specialists drawn from multiple disciplines communicate and collaborate with each other in real-time in complex care settings (Paquet, M 2016). Fourthly, there are systems to provide guidance on the management of medicine across order placement and supply, storage, preparation, and dispensation, administration, recording, and disposal (Parahoo 2014). In addition, there is an opportunity for systems to improve the protection of staff, clients, and visitors. Leisure and wellness requirements in care homes may be achieved through technological solutions that support healthy and safe client independence, social integration and community engagement, and remote monitoring of patients’ sleep, and nutrition, and hydration statuses (Lopez & Dupuis 2014). A good quality management system would help senior management gain a complete view of service quality across a care home’s operations and processes (Lane 2013). Nevertheless, it is only a unique set of technological competence and knowledge, alongside relevant implementations that care homes can overcome the current and future challenges and pressures in areas such as operational efficiency, internal and external relationships, change execution, quality assurance, and cost and/or service differentiation  (Jasper & Crossan, 2012).

Nevertheless, there are paradoxes between markets and organizational resources that may challenge companies strategically as argued by Swayne, Duncan and Ginter (2012). Does purchasing the required resources guarantee a company of diversifying into every market it chooses to venture into?  For example, when the privately owned care homes can purchase almost any IT resource while public-funded and community homes cannot, there arises the question of whether resource-related constraints can truly hinder business success. De Wit and Meyer (2010) opines that tangible resources (such as machinery and equipment) and newly sourced talent do not necessarily form valuable competencies since other companies may in the long run procure similar resources. On the other hand, the resource-driven strategy mainly focuses on leveraging distinct competencies to achieve competitive advantages, but the competences must be continuously improved for sustainable advantage (Jacobson, 2012).  Therefore, business success cannot be achieved through market-driven or resource driven strategies. Instead, what drives success is competence adaptability.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CARE HOME PROBLEMS AREAS WITH STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT’S PROFIT-ORIENTED OR RESPONSIBILITY-ORIENTED PARADOXES

CQC is piling pressure on care homes to pursue improvement approaches – those with adequate resources can improve their rating from ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’, granting them the opportunity to attract more clients at a higher price for services due to their perceived quality assurance. An ‘Outstanding’ rating gained through innovative and creative facilities, equipment, IT systems, and services that meet best practices – that go beyond expectations stand to drive enhanced brand reputation and competitive advantage (Lane 2013). Therefore, privately-owned care homes are highly likely to adopt technology as a means of gaining a competitive edge over its commercial and public rivals through provision of value-added care and support services in terms of meeting attractive quality and safety standards in addition to better responsiveness, pricing and profitability, and convenience. In addition, automation of various care industry functions is also expected to deliver cost reduction benefits, which may further drive better competitiveness and profit margins (Victor 2010). The aforementioned connections between care home technologies and the competitive advantage model are largely concerned with creating customer value through care service differentiation – the outcomes of processes that seek to meet a collection of deeply understood customer needs. There are competitive advantages that come with product/service differentiation or lower pricing strategies, or a strategy that combines the two components (Swayne, Duncan & Ginter 2012). However, attempts to gain a competitive edge on the two fronts may lead to challenged overall advantage. For example, if a care home delivers considerably high quality health and care services, then it would be highly challenging to become a low-cost leader without compromising on quality. The following are some of the common paradoxes: how to pursue profit maximization efforts without driving customers off; are the exchange rates for products justified; and which products should be hiked (Rothaermel 2012). A company focusing on profits face the paradox of damaging the profits totally if the customers are not inspired by the moves taken by the management (De Wit & Meyer 2010). Chasing profits at the expense of competitive advantage can be truly undoing. This is the ultimate profit-driven paradox: businesses that make profits without an organizational purpose of creating value for customers and the society (the impetus to strategic management) at large will eventually fail miserably (De Wit & Meyer 2010; Steffens,  Davidsson & Fitzsimmons 2009).

On the other hand, public-funded and community homes are largely responsibility-oriented as they provide social care and health services to vulnerable people who are not in a position to afford private care and medical insurance (Wood 2015).  These types of care homes play an integral role in the UK’s social care delivery for the elderly since without them it would be almost impossible for the government to provide sufficient care for this aged population. The elderly deserves care homes that assure a sense of dignity, independence, wellbeing and community, which is extremely crucial to them (Laney & Edgehill 2015). Nevertheless, the inclusivity and consideration of long-term concerns that come with responsibility-driven approach requires active learning to survive the dynamic internal and external changes (Moura-Leite, Padgett & Galan 2012; Rendtorff 2009). The care home market should give clients the right choice, diverse and quality care options. Care providers are struggling to commission the appropriate and adequate care and support help people stay out of hospitals, and live healthier and happily with their family members, friends, and their communities at large.  Otherwise, the needs may outweigh the sector’s capabilities. On one hand, there are considerable problems related to the government financing cuts to care homes. On the other, care homes face demographic changes that will continue to see unprecedented rise in the number of people with care and support needs. As such, care providers ought to adopt a strategic thinking approach to their existing business models to cater for market changes, especially in financing and growing demand for personalised care and support driven by demographic changes (Ruddick 2015). This will help them be prepared for the looming bursts in care and support needs and dwindling resources. Adequate resources need to be in place and be properly managed to assure care and support for the vulnerable population and protect their dignity.

As care homes start to implement strategies founded on strong IT considerations, they ought to focus on understanding the differentiators as a key element of strategy; how can we become the winners in the market. The care home management should assess the potential implications of gaining cost leadership or achieving sustained product differentiation through conscious choices regarding the technological weapons that need to be assembled and implemented to win customers and profits against their rivals. If the goal is sustainably profitable, competitive, and achievable, then it is worth pursuing (De Wit & Meyer 2010). For example, if a care home ascertains that it is cannot be a low-cost leader currently and in the future, then it ought to be a high-satisfaction and high-quality organisation. Therefore, it is important to choose one clear niche or area to focus on. However, there are opportunities for pursuing the two fronts – cost and product differentiation. For example, a telehealth solution would deliver early detection of health conditions and enhanced recovery, while alleviating costly inpatient services through reduced overall hospital admissions (Docobo 2014).  Yet, sustainable competitive advantage requires deploying a distinctive system to defeat competition while retaining a company’s fundamental strengths and continually adapting to the system to market demands and emerging opportunities in the market (De Wit & Meyer 2010).

GAPS AND LIMITATIONS WITHIN THE STRATEGIC ISSUES

There has been rapidly rising demand for personalized home care services such as care for persons with mental, dementia, learning, and other challenges, especially over the past ten years (Ruddick 2015). Financial pressures across the care home sector represent a challenge facing care providers. In fact, care homes risk being put into administration for failure to satisfy their creditors. This may be only the start of even more severe problems in the care home sector if some drastic action is not taken. The impending crisis could dwarf the challenges that have been troubling the steel industry (Ruddick 2015).  What would happen if care homes fail to deliver the expected service levels, yet mainstream hospitals cannot be able provide elective care since they may get full with the elderly and persons with learning challenges. Ruddick (2015) indicates that an additional £1 billion costs could be introduced into care homes by 2020 – a huge problem for a sector that is partly funded by the government.

Strategic measures need to be taken by care home management personnel to ensure that vulnerable persons are assured of quality care in the wave of rising care and support demand. As one of the potential strategic measures, NHS England (2014) notes that a case study of successful implementation of a video-based two-way consultation platform in close to 200 care homes and residential homes run by Airedale NHS Foundation Trust achieved a reduction of 40% in the rate of vulnerable persons seeking hospital admissions. Therefore, it is possible to alleviate the demand pressures by decreasing the rate of hospital-bed days. In addition, the telemedicine approach to care delivery was able to decrease unnecessary accident and emergency (A&E) admissions related to adult populations (NHS England 2014). Nevertheless, NHS England (2014) documented the following factors that inhibit telemedicine efforts:

  • Information governance risk brought about by public social media communication platforms such as Skype;
  • Overdependence on widespread adoption scale to deliver tangible reduction in hospital admissions; and
  • Prescription problems: telemedicine consultations are usually carried out remotely by a nurse who requests a general practitioner (who has not seen the patient) to issue prescription.

In a different study carried out between November 2013 and June 2014, Sussex Community Trust (SCT) investigated the use of a low-intensity telehealth solution involving 92 resident patients from local care homes. Diagnosis covered chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetic, UTI, and congestive heart failure (CHF) conditions. Care home matrons were tasked with monitoring, managing, and responding to care recipients’ questions using telehealth software installed on Android tablets. There were tangible positive outcomes in terms of:

  • Reduction in overall hospital admissions – 75%;
  • Improved service delivery standards;
  • Nurse time savings – 40%;
  • Positive feedback from care residents as well as from family members and friends;
  • Early detection of health conditions; and
  • Enhanced recovery (Docobo 2014).

Therefore, an IT start up can develop telemedicine and telehealth software applications targeting the demand-constrained care home market. Such systems will deliver greater value proposition and new business models to consumers (care homes) through a number of ways. For example, telemedicine and telehealth systems may be used to support care home staff and residents in prevention of unnecessary hospital admissions and face-to-face nurse-patient contacts. Remote rehabilitation and autonomous care may help drive improved client autonomy and/or independence.  However, care providers are expected to come up with the best strategies to prevent or mitigate security and safety risks facing staff and clients (Victor 2010). Nevertheless, NHS England (2014) documented the following factors that inhibit telemedicine efforts:

  • Information governance risk brought about by public social media communication platforms such as Skype;
  • Overdependence on widespread adoption scale to deliver tangible reduction in hospital admissions; and
  • Prescription problems: telemedicine consultations are usually carried out remotely by a nurse who requests a general practitioner (who has not seen the patient) to issue prescription.

Prevention of avoidable hospital admissions would translate to cost-savings, nurse time-savings, and improved care quality.  Nevertheless, what are the cost-benefit implications of IT adoption in care homes? The question is guided by the fact that financial costs represent the major factor that inhibits adoption of technology in care homes (Netten, William & Darton 2014). Cost factors include the costs of acquisition, implementation, staff training, and support and maintenance (Harrington et al. 2012). The SCT study described above showed that telehealth drives cost effectiveness up to approximately £0.9 per patient on daily basis due to avoidance of unnecessary admissions (Docobo 2014). On the other hand, the economic case for the Airedale NHS Foundation Trust telemedicine study showed that a patient in his/her home or in a care home is likely to be admitted to a hospital once per annum compared to approximately 15 times without telemedicine. Moreover, telemedicine tends to reduce the overall hospital-bed stay in the event that admission is inevitable. The telemedicine study also showed that the approach attracts approximately £2400 per patient for a whole year compared to an urgent admission that costs approximately £2500 (NHS England 2014). As such, residential homes and nursing homes stand to enjoy considerably high ROI benefits with successful adoption of technology.

A major challenge concerns the effectiveness of recruitment, training, and retention of certified nursing personnel since high staff turnover in care homes has critical quality consequences for the care and support of clients. Therefore, there is need for human resources management systems to help care providers manage the workforce and organizational knowledge – two of the most critical resources in any organization. These information systems help the track skills, knowledge, experiences, and duties relevant to employees for better human resource planning, knowledge/expertise creation, management, and transfer, and stimulation of innovation (K.Laudon & J.Laudon 2010). Knowledge sharing also promotes cost savings and organizational change (Despres, 2011).

There is need for care providers and local authorities to enter into concrete partnerships that may help them understand the current and future community needs and plan on best ways of delivering social care services (Lane 2013). She argues that real partnerships between the two major players with enormous amounts of valuable information would increase the likelihood of gaining new and more useful insights that may possibly result in better problem-solving and decision-making and enhanced planning. Therefore, an IT start up should come up with an innovative software solution to facilitate improved communications and deepened stakeholder relationships.

While privately-owned care homes are largely profit-oriented, their public-funded and community equivalents can be considered to be responsibility-oriented. This can be attributed to the fact that that the former are operated by business-minded persons and companies, while the latter are run by local authorities and government agencies. The cost of aged care expected to rise continually and many seniors being unable to afford private care and medical insurance (Wood 2015). Therefore, the biggest challenge rests on developing software for resource-constrained public-funded and community care homes. Moreover, even with privately-owned care homes that have numerous resources at their disposal to purchase a technological care solution, an IT start up would face intense competition from established software vendors. Therefore, an IT start up must come up with a competitive pricing that both privately-owned and public-funded and community care homes can afford and derive tangible value addition from consequent software adoption.

CONCLUSION

This literature review has identified the following major strategic issues within the care home sector: increasingly growing demand for personalized care services, coordination of specialists from different fields, security and safety of staff and clients, financial pressures and high staff turnover, medication management problems, and leisure and wellness challenges. At the same time, the need for quality assurance across the care home sector cannot be ignored since it is a critical enabler of effective and efficient care for the vulnerable persons in our society. IT is a viable tool for enabling care providers to offer high-quality and more-efficient services to their clients. Technology can help overcome the issues facing the care home sector in a number of ways, including:

  • Improved communications and deepened stakeholder relationships via email, websites, social media, video conferencing, and electronic care records and documents.
  • Improved potential to track resident information.
  • Remote rehabilitation and autonomous care – improved autonomy and/or independence within care recipients’’ own residential homes.
  • Self-reporting of residents’ health.
  • Reduced overall hospital admissions, thus alleviating constraints such as limited number of beds and costly inpatient services.
  • Nurse time savings.
  • Error-free medication prescription, dispensation, administration, and monitoring or supervision.
  • Improved customer satisfaction.
  • Enhanced resource utilisation efficiencies through workflow and staff management to optimise scheduling without compromising care service quality.
  • Support for healthy and safe client independence, social integration and community engagement, and remote monitoring of patients’ sleep, and nutrition, and hydration statuses.
  • Continuous service quality improvement.

Use of appropriate software solutions can help a care home gain a competitive edge over its rivals through provision of value-added care and support services in terms of attractive quality and safety standards, responsiveness, efficiency, and effectiveness, pricing, and convenience. In addition, automation of various care home functions is also expected to deliver cost reduction benefits, which may further drive competitiveness.

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De Wit, B & Meyer, R 2010, Strategy: process, content, context; an international perspective, 4th edn, Cengage Learning EMEA.

Despres, C 2011, Leading Issues in Knowledge Management Research, Academic Conferences Limited.

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Etisalat

Etisalat

Introduction

Etisalat is a company that offers telecommunication services and solutions to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is one of the major telecom service providers in the Middle East. Currently, the organization strategy is aimed at concentrating on the company’s vision “to become the leading telecom operator in the Middle East & North Africa”. To kick off the quality process, Etisalat embarked on the following objectives mainly aimed at enhancing consumer satisfaction:

  • Promote a quality culture at Etisalat through motivation, training, knowledge transfer, and collaboration across stakeholders.
  • Provide quality of services, exceeding the minimum consumer requirements.
  • Enhance internal business processes through implementation of telecommunication best practices in management systems and apply global quality control standards.
  • Guarantee high quality of service performance levels and security.
  • Address the shortcomings of the current business procedures and processes.

The value leveraged from implementation of quality assurance is explored across the entire workforce coupled with top management support and commitment to guide the employees in meeting the company’s quality objectives. Etisalat has used several quality tools in various lines of business and regions. Examples of these tools include:

  • Quality Circle (QC): several projects have been done using the QC tool. QC entails development of skills, confidence, inventiveness, and capabilities of the workforce collaboratively through training, cooperation, and work experience. The objectives of QC includes, to: improve the authority and management capacities of the supervisors and first-line representatives in the working environment and to bolster the level of staffs’ morale on service levels.
  • ISO 9000 Quality Management System: Eight (8) Etisalat elements have been certified for satisfying the ISO 9001:2000 quality management requirements.
  • Consumer Satisfaction Index: the company implemented the consumer satisfaction index for typical analogue lines, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) Post-paid and Dial Up by contracting quality a consultant.
  • Etisalat Supplier Support Program: as a guideline used by Etisalat, this is a manual to have continuous improvement of network in addition to quality performance through collective efforts between the company and its main suppliers.
  • British Standard (BS) 7799 – Information Security Management System: the company’s network security unit for e-Shop services has been certified by BS 7799-2:2002.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): KPIs created and applied in numerous network segments in Etisalat, for example, GSM, contact center, switching maintenance among other business areas.

Etisalat management decided to embrace the European Foundation of Quality Management (EFQM) excellence framework as a quality award evaluation model. This model is focused on supporting the network maintenance center department’s requirements. It will distinguish the primary components of continual improvement of assessment, diagnostics and benchmarking of the quality processes.

Considerable research has been conducted to help improve quality, and several awards have been given to motivate organizations comply with proven quality practices and standards and consequently compete in the global market. Quality awards include: Deming’s Prize, Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA), and European Establishment of Quality Management for Quality Award, International Organization for Standards (ISO), and Dubai Quality Award.

Roadmap for quality awards

For quality awards, the roadmap model is in view of the EFQM Excellence Business Model incorporated into the RADAR scoring frameworks. The self-appraisal may be applied through the following steps: Questionnaire; Workshop; Matrix chart; and Award simulation. For this model, the evaluation for quality improvement score range from 0 to 1,000 points utilizing the EFQM Excellence model incorporated with the RADAR scoring framework. The fundamental concept of the roadmap model is RADAR – Results, Approach, Arrangement, Assessment, and Review, a concept that comprises of four essential entities that organizations need:

  • Determine the intended results upon accomplishment of the policies and procedures.
  • Plan and create a coordinated collection of solid ways of recognizing the results.
  • Implement the approaches effectively and comprehensively across the organization.
  • Evaluate and review whether these approaches are valuable and able to accomplish the desired results, distinguishing, prioritizing and actualizing expected improvements based on the analysis.

The RADAR concept can be effortlessly integrated into a continual management problem analysis, solving and evaluation tool. For optimal results, a relative weight should be credited to all the nine criteria specified in the EFQM Excellence Model. The RADAR scoring system assigns a percentage score to various excellence scores in a quality assessment process. Figure 1 represents the roadmap for quality awards.

Figure 1: Roadmap for quality awards model

The process improvement analysis was done based on the six sigma concept, one of the useful tools for executing business strategies originally developed and used by Motorola. Basically, six sigma concentrates on identifying and removing causes of errors and defects in business processes based on the DMAIC cycle – defining, measuring, analyzing, improving and controlling.

Business Excellence Model (BEM)

BEM consists of 9 criteria, 4 results (People, Customer, Society, and Key Performance), and 5 enablers (Leadership, People, Policy and Strategy, Partnership and Resources, and Processes).  Enablers illustrate approaches towards accomplishment of results, while results show the actual achievements by the organization. BEM is demonstrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: BEM

BEM is intrinsically dynamic and has several linkages, whereby all criteria in the model are interlinked. There are four levels of linkages: across the entire model; across enablers; between enablers and results – cause and effect; and within results. BEM may be used to drive improvement, thus it can be expected that there is a connection between accomplished results and performance improvement actions.

Self-assessment

Self-assessment constitutes a critical element of performance improvement in any organization under the EFQM model. According to ESQM, self-assessment is a detailed, periodic and systematic analysis of a company’s activities. It is the starting point for any quality performance process as it seeks to elicit organizational strengths and improvement areas. After success self-assessment, an action plan is developed to steer improvement of an organization’s performance.  Questionnaires may be used for data collection, and all stakeholders should be involved. An effective communication plan should be developed to create strong feedback capacities at all functional levels. Typically, self-assessment involves 8 steps: build commitment; plan for self-assessment process; establish terms; communicate all self-assessment plans; carry out self-assessment; create action plan; implement action plan; and assess progress.

Application of self-assessment implies attempting to uncover areas that need improvement in an organization. At Etisalat, the EFQM BEM model was used as the starting point for self-assessment. RADAR is a crucial tool for conducting self-assessment scoring based on 3 key criteria: approach, deployment, and review.

KPIs developed for Etisalat Company

For Etisalat, the KPIs include:

  • The budget and net income.
  • Brand measurements.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Customers’ volume.
  • Customer retention.
  • Competitiveness in the market.
  • Market shares.
  • Time to market factor.
  • Standards in service provision.
  • Process ownership.
  • Degree of compliance with process standards.
  • New services.

Analysis of result

 The questionnaire conducted at three major areas in Etisalat’s maintenance department had a 65% response rate. Based on each enabler’s criterion and results, the score was 24.09% 27.04% respectively. In total, the score was 51.13% (511/1000 points). The company is “Recognized for Excellence” because its total earned score is 511/1000 points, which is greater than EFQM’s requirement of >400 points to qualify for this recognition. The 9 criteria specified by the Dubai Quality Award and EFQM were applied to arrive at the 511/1000 points as represented in Figure 3.

Figure 3: The score of questionnaire based on the BEM model

Obviously, the enablers rated almost 50% of the aggregate score, a good indicator of strength. The 511/1000 points score implies there is still need for improvement. Figure 4 represents the actual score per criteria alongside available room for improvement.

Figure 4: Areas of improvement per criteria

Conclusion

Quality awards are aimed at promoting business performance and competitiveness through awareness. More precisely, it is a process to help organizations establish an effective roadmap to excellence.  Today, the corporate world is experiencing a high global competition, demanding high quality services that exceed consumer needs. This way, a company is able to uphold the desired competitiveness in today’s markets. Etisalat management resolved to design and implement high-quality management systems, incorporating performance indicators, quality controls like the six sigma, and quality of services assessment, which creates a collaborative platform for most of the workers in the process of quality improvement.

It is evident that is greatly possible to enhance the quality approaches at Etisalat to deliver desired quality excellence, owing much to the EFQM-BEM roadmap model. The process combined the self-assessment questionnaire with the RADAR philosophy used as the scoring matrix, and the maintenance department scored 511/100, thus meeting the requirements for “Recognized for Excellence”.  However, there is need to improve on process ownership, customer retention, relationships in key account customers, and new services.  The roadmap to quality implementation at Etisalat requires adoption of global standards such as ISO 90000 and ISO 14001 for quality management and business benefits respectively. Self-assessment is a critical tool to help perform continuous improvement of quality at Etisalat.

Lessons learnt

Basically, there are eight criteria that may change from time to time as a result of development and enhancement of quality tools in order to satisfy the market needs. Successful organizations are always ready to show their business performance to stakeholders, alongside consideration for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sponsorship. The criteria entails: leadership and consistency of purpose; management by processes and facts; people development and involvement; continuous learning, innovation and improvement; partnership development; CSR; results orientation; and customer focus.

Enablers in BEM are critical as they help assess whether an organization possess the required approaches to accomplish the expected results. Ultimately, these models are critical in delivering quality results effectively and efficiently and ensuring continual improvements. Self-assessment played a key role in the overall quality improvement process since it enables identify areas that need improvement.

Process owners are critical to any quality effort, because they manage, improve and assess business processes to identify areas that need improvement. Eventually, an organization is steered towards better processes and products to meet customer and market demands. It is important to have a deep understanding into customer expectations to ensure that all customer needs are explicitly addressed.  An organization should have a plan that seeks to handle customers’ complaints in a query-feedback technique, coupled with after sales support, provision of necessary technical documentations, product or service training, and warranty to help retain customers.

Adequate customer satisfaction is critical to any organization’s success.  Therefore, there is need to implement strategies for brand measurement and gain a clear understanding of customer satisfaction, awareness, and preferences. Etisalat achieved its targets according to the financial plan and realized an increase in its net annual income. Other non-financial results may be improved through seeking more customers, and enhancing the time to market factor and market shares.  Based on the KPIs, there is need to enhance the process and customer results.

Other lessons learnt include, the need to:  seek senior management commitment and support in process evaluation and quality improvement; develop effective service level agreements (SLAs) to uphold customer rights and lead to high retention levels; and conduct change management driven by senior management to encourage adoption of new processes.

SWOT analysis

Etisalat strengths:

  • Strong leadership: it is evident that the total local senior personnel in the company exceed 70% of the entire senior management.
  • There is high leaders’ involvement in process involvement actions in the adoption of new initiatives regarding quality tools like QC and ISO 9000.
  • The company has a clear top-down policy.
  • The company has an organizational culture that steer achievement of targets.
  • The technology of the firm’s products is recognized as world class.
  • The staffs are adhering to the process road map, evident due to adoption of ISO 9000.
  • The firm introduce new products to continuously meet the market demands.

Opportunities

  • After improving in customer results, processes and key performance results, the company may understand the meaning of “value” and the significance of “process ownership”. This way, process owners will be responsible for measures, objectives and performance, thus delivering valuable benefits to the entire company.
  • Customer results may improve up to 96 points.

Weaknesses

  • There exist a gap between the company and the end user needs.
  • No process ownership.
  • The company does not have a clear process or plan to help retain its customers.
  • The company does not have a solid brand value measurement capacity.
  • Links with primary accounts is not clear, resulting to damage to customer retention and loyalty.
  • No plan for development of new services.

Threats

  • There is increasing global competition in the telecom industry as well as in the UAE.

References

Al Kattan, I.Y., & AL-Suwaidi, K.S. (n.d.). ROADMAP FOR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT IN A TELECOM COMPANY. American University of Sharjah.

Death and betrayal are analogously “bad”

Death and betrayal are analogously “bad”

In this essay, I show that Nagel’s argument that death and betrayal are analogously “bad” even if the victim is unaware of the loss and/or wrong they have suffered can possibly object the claim that death is not bad for the person that has died is somehow flawed. To this end, I start with an account of Nagel’s position on the goodness of life and badness of death from the perspective of deprivation. Then, I argue it is plausible to think that Nagel’s objection conflates a life-life comparison with a life-death comparison, making it seem as though the loss of life is analogous to betrayal or any other loss an agent may experience over the course of their lives. 

Nagel is a scholar who has expended remarkable effort trying to reject the premises used to arrive at the Epicurean conclusion explained above. Notably, Nagel inspires a positive interpretation of the theory of deprivation by asserting that death is bad for the person that has died. To die is bad because “life is a good and death is the corresponding deprivation or loss” (p. 180). According to Nagel’s deprivation approach, death is bad for those who have died because it deprives them of the goods that would have been available to them in a counterfactually longer life. Death is bad because of the desirability or appropriateness of what it takes away. This is contrary to the notion that death is bad because of any positive attributes.

The deprivation hypothesis raises three main problems about loss in general, and about death in particular. To start with, there may be doubt whether there is any evil that comprise simply in the absence or deprivation of potential goods, and that which does not depend on somebody’s concern with respect to that deprivation. Secondly, there is a special difficulty in the case of loss of life, especially how and when the assumed misfortune may be assigned to a specific subject. As long as an individual exists, he is yet to die, and when he dies, he no longer exists. So, if death is a misfortunate, there seems to be no specific time when it can be assigned to a subject. Thirdly, there is the problem regarding the asymmetry between our views about prenatal and posthumous non-existence. How can the latter be bad if the former is not? If there are rational objections to considering death as an evil, then they apply to several other presumed evils as well. For instance, it is claimed that:

If a man is betrayed by his friends, ridiculed behind his back, and despised by people who treat him politely to his face, none of it can be counted as a misfortune for him as long as he does not suffer as a result (p. 180).

Supposedly, awareness causes suffering. Similarly, a loss (say death or betrayal) is only bad if the victim is aware of the misfortune. The popular remark, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” (p. 180), is one of the major objections to the argument that “death is bad for the person that has died”. However, for Nagel, people can be harmed by things (say death or betrayal) that they are unaware of. Nagel argues that is would be simplistic to assume that the subject of a particular harm must be an individual who exists at the point when the harm takes place, and that the subject must feel harmed. To Nagel, an individual’s subjective experience (or feeling) is not the absolute determinant of a harm. Rather, a harm could depend on the history of associated experiences as well as the possibilities that were open to those experiences. Nagel opines that, “any death entails the loss of some life that its victim would have led had he not died at that or any other earlier point (p. 182). So, it would be harm/bad to be deprived of the possibility to live past the age at which an individual dies.

My conviction is that Nagel’s objection to the claim that “death is not bad for the person that has died” is somehow flawed is informed by two reasons. First, I believe that death is not bad for the deceased in any reasonable sense from a deprivation point of view. How could posthumous deprivation or loss of life be considered a harm, yet the prenatal deprivation is not? If we consider death to be annihilation of life, then death means permanent non-existence and loss of conscious experiences or feelings. Therefore, the dead cannot feel or experience the badness of death. One of the major premises that are provided in support of the claim that, “death is not bad for the person that has died”, is the experience or expression argument. This argument is basically expressed as follows, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” (p. 180). Simply, this means that we perceive something as good or bad only after experiencing its goodness or badness. It is naturally viewed that, “something cannot harm you if you are not aware of it, or cannot experience its impact”.  But of course the dead are unaware of their death, or the dead cannot subjectively experience any impact of death.  Considering the two premises, it would be reasonable to conclude that death is neither good nor bad – it is nothing at least to the person that has died.

Secondly, it can be acknowledged that there are things that are either good or bad even if they cannot be experienced. For example, lying, stealing, infidelity, betrayal, loss of senses, disease prevention, and asymptomatic diseases. For instance, having a tumor is bad for us even if the tumor has not been detected. Furthermore, a vaccine is considered to be successful if the person to whom it was administered to do not show the symptoms of the disease being prevented. Therefore, the goodness of preventive vaccine is manifested by absence of a certain disease. Similarly, it can be argued that death can be a good or bad thing even when we may not felt its goodness or badness. However, it is reasonable to argue that the deceased will never experience the badness of death, contrary to Nagel’s claim that people can be harmed by things that they are unaware of.  This is the case even if we consider death to be a deprivation of some life, principally because the harm to the person that has died (permanently unconscious) would not be experienced by the subject under any possible condition.

Perhaps, the second reason in support of the fact that Nagel’s objection is somehow flawed is the strongest. The reason is best conceived as the conflation of a ‘life-life” comparison with a “life-death” comparison, which gives the impression that the loss of life is similar to betrayal. The problem is that a dead person is inexistent and thus cannot be literary considered to have lost or deprived of anything whatsoever. More is better when comparing the goodness experienced during a lifetime – life-life comparison. However, it would be illogical to accept a life-death comparison. This is because, in the absence of the subject, no logical subject-relative value comparison can be made. Therefore, it would be simplistic (or even illogical) to conclude that death is bad compared to continued life. Precisely, in case of loss of life, the deceased is not there to experience the badness of death.

Nagel’s argument fails to acknowledge that events in both space and time can equally generate feelings that drive value. This way, the temporality assumption does not have to be accepted. That is, an event and value must not have co-existed at some point in the agent’s life in order to generate feelings. This means that death (unlike betrayal) can be logically understood as bad for the dead without confining or isolating the event at a specific, proximate point in time. Specifically, it is imperative to understand that the badness of death (unlike betrayal) is atemporal as it does not apply to any specific moment in human life.

The impact of enterprise resource planning systems

The impact of enterprise resource planning systems

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to investigate the impact of enterprise resource planning systems when integrated into the supply chain management. The study is meant to challenge the ERP vendors to substantiate their claims of benefits enjoyed by organizations from their products in addition to providing evidence of existing benefits of coupling supply chain management and ERP’s. The relevance of three types of software namely; SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics in this initiative is also addressed with the eventual comparison of the three. In the research, there is collection of data on various aspects of performance of the organizations that use ERP’s in their supply chain management (SCM) system. Collection of data about the software of preference from these companies was also done. Additionally, the reasons why a certain company preferred certain software were recorded.

 The results confirm the literature from many scholars who claim that there are several benefits due to the coupling of ERP’s with SCM in a business. Furthermore, it is clear that firms with a longer experience with ERP’s have better performance results within the supply chain. The integration of enterprise resource planning in the supply chain management was also found to reduce the risks involved in the supply system. The research also concludes that SAP has the largest share of the market when compared to Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics in addition to having the longest payback period.  Oracle has the longest duration for implementation in addition to having the least number of individuals who are able to enjoy between 81% and 100% of the benefits. Microsoft Dynamics has the smallest market share and the lowest chance to be shortlisted by users. SAP has the highest chance to be shortlisted by users although it has the lowest rate of selection after it has been shortlisted.

Introduction

By definition, ERP is a software integrated in an organization and consists of several components necessary for the organization to plan, produce, sell, market, distribute, account , manage human resource, manage projects, and do service and maintenance. An organization that implements an ERP is known to have a good information exchange between departments as a result of integration of information in the whole organization. Integration of ERP’s into the supply chain management department of an organization allows it to reduce the dependency on human effort in addition to eliminating scattered and distinct systems. The success experienced by enterprise resource planning in the whole world has captured the interest of researchers from the field of business in addition to those from information technology and information systems departments. Accounting has been said to be the most common business field to implement ERP’s. Since the introduction of ERP’s, the business domain has been revolutionized with the employees being forced to view things in terms of processes that can be integrated. As far as employees are concerned, things have changed on the way accounting, control and production planning is done. As a result of these and more changes due to the introduction of ERP’s, they have now become ideal subject for research by several disciplines from the business field.  Researchers from the accounting departments are expected to advice other business disciplines whether implementation of and ERP is worth the money invested towards their implementation.

            It was just a few years ago that researchers from accountings discipline started carrying out studies that can prove that ERP’s have a significant financial value. Results obtained from different studies have similar views despite lack of consistency. Due to growth of the number and complexity of services to be provided by a company, the directors are worried about high risks. As a result, the leadership works very hard to make good profits, preserve their starting stock and to ensure growth of the company. The risks involved in the supply chain management were and are very vital to the performance of an organization necessitating the implementation of ERP’s to reduce these risks.  The integration of enterprise resource planning within the supply chain management is mainly done to have a large share of the market. This is done due to the fact that the customers are the final section of production process. ERP integration into supply chain management has allowed many companies to have a better and speedy response to customer needs and preferences (Bernhard, Peter & Zoltan, 2013). 

            Despite the many benefits an organization obtains from the initiative of implementing ERP in supply chain management, there are several reasons why some companies are lagging behind on this the same. The integration requires relatively high cost to start in addition to the high risks involved. The lengthy time involved has also kept many organizations away from this implementation. Research is underway to determine the best software to use in the implementation of enterprise resource planning in the supply chain management. In particular, several studies have compared the performance of SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics in delivering the desired results.

SAP Effects on Supply Chain Management Performance

Systems Applications & Programs (SAP) is a principal supplier of supply chain management technology which offer integrated and effective business solutions addressing the full supply chain life cycle (Plunkett, 2009). Among the SAP services are (Steinfield, Markus, & Wigand, 2011):

  • Supply chain planning and policy.
  • Sourcing.
  • Procurement.
  • Manufacturing excellence.
  • Logistics.
  • Product innovation.
  • Life cycle management.

SAP assures a number of bottom-line benefits including (Steinfield, Markus, & Wigand, 2011):

  • Reduced operational expenditure.
  • Improved financial and operational performance in addition to meeting and improving service targets.
  • Minimize inefficiency in the supply chain.
  • Increase compliance to quality and regulatory controls through standardized processes.
  • Create enhanced and more evident relationships with partners.
  •  Reduce business risks.

The SAP Supply Chain Management (SAP SCM) module has enabled companies overcome challenges in the following major ways (Wood, 2012):

  • Real-time control of the supply chain: Control full access to supply chain data and visibility of such data to collaboratively generate scenarios and model the impacts of particular decisions, factors or options in real time aimed at increasing the revenue from supply chain. Improved visibility to the supply chain process has provided insights into transformations that impact on the completion of product delivery and correctness of the quantity.
  • Coordinate the entire international network using true demand variables such as social media, research data, and point-of-sale to determine customer demands and respond immediately to integrate that demand with the planning process.
  • Efficient execution of the supply chain: due to increased complexity in supply chain and increasing transportation costs, delivering the perfect order may be difficult. SAP provides the required efficient real-time execution into logistic situations and business forces.

SAP has replaced the predominant approach to planning sales by a waterfall model with an integrated continuous planning that reflect actual events in supply and demand in real time. Supply chains are integrated into a holistic plan to achieve alignment and balancing and drive profitability and market share. SAP has gone beyond normal supply chains to integrating processes, systems and people. Furthermore, SAP software has helped establish new operations as well as sales approaches by combining products, operations, sales, and finance for a complete process of driving business results (Twentyman, 2013). First, it has led to optimization of product profitability, product mix, and customer profitability by involving constraints in the supply chain constraints during the planning process. Secondly, inventory levels have been well managed to leverage working capital while fully satisfying target customers demands. Finally, it has led to fewer shortages of materials through positive transformation of supply strategies and has avoided shortfalls in manufacturing ability and inadequate material supply.

The SAP Advanced Planning & Organization (SAP APO) application has helped businesses to conduct real-time collaborative supply chain scheduling together with their business partners. Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier (2002) notes that SAP has supported planning processes and decision making in businesses. SAP APO has transformed the major collaborative planning activities including:

  • Supply planning rooted in customer needs and availability of supplier material at early stages.
  • Transportation planning so as to simplify work processes involving manufacturers or producers and the means or providers of transportation.
  • Demand planning founded on time-based primary estimates of retailers and manufacturers

Supply chain is capable of transforming a business to greater heights in growth. Supply chain management has been instrumental in helping many businesses withstand the global economic recession (Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier, 2002). The more the interest they business focuses on supply chain management, the more the efficiency gained, and the more they trim costs. Today, there are high expectations for control of costs but the limits are still shifting. Therefore, many businesses are focusing on their supply chains so as to back efforts aimed at growing again; this is by attempting to maintain a disciplined expenditure arrangement practiced during the recession while improving on the flexibility required in taking a business to the next step.

SAP analytics has installed businesses with capabilities to plan in real time an integrated model of financials, demand and supply. Instant analysis of complex data at all levels of granularity, dimension and aggregation has never been so easy that strategic management can request for even the most detailed supply chain analytics (Knolmayer & Zeier, 2005). SAP has also facilitated data import both from SAP and external sources. This optimizes product and customer revenue taking into account constraints related to supply and financials. Any business works towards reaping the highest revenue and placing itself at a competitive edge against its rivals though financial constraints are a big challenge. The profitability from optimization of products in the supply chains has enabled businesses to overcome the financial constraints. SAP enables businesses adjust their inventory levels so as to minimize costs and meet target services. Therefore, companies are empowered to administer capacity exploitation to avoid material shortages (Crampton & Rosemann, 2014).

SAP has helped organizations obtain cost data from many sources to achieve a holistic insight of product costs. It has assisted in identification of cost trends to discover unknown costs and optimize product sourcing decisions (Crampton & Rosemann, 2014). This has resulted to reduction of product costs in addition to reduced supply chain risks and improved margins. The manual processes are eliminated and maintenance costs have been substantially reduced.

SAP solutions have helped companies become extremely agile to operate in a volatile global network of suppliers. SAP helps organizations manage their supply chains while satisfying the needed urgency and sensing to respond to changes in real time. This way, the required flexibility is obtained to adapt to changing markets, exploit new opportunities, enhance communication, and improve order rates. Businesses have strengthened their relationships with customers, suppliers and contracted manufacturers all over the world. SAP has led to a customer-oriented real-time orchestrated supply chain. A SAP ability powered by SAP HANA has bridged the practical distribution of finished goods from manufacturer, wholesale, retails, and to consumer. SAP has integrated the process of planning, implementation, orchestration and monitoring of the movement of the products. This has increased the customer demand as multiple levels results to data latency. Decision support is based on real-time analytics to aid in planning and execution such as accuracy, supply projection, stock coverage, and forecasting (Crampton & Rosemann, 2014)).

SAP has maximized visibility traversing the performance metrics across the supply chain in a business. SAP has helped businesses reduce risks and bottlenecks, improve on working capital and identify novel opportunities to achieve measurable results. It has made it easy to leverage the root-cause analysis thus bottlenecks can be easily diagnosed and supply chain issues are easily resolved for optimal business performance. SAP has enhanced responsiveness to supply chain tendencies both in short-term and long-term basis. Supply chain risks have been effectively mitigated by in-depth strategies involving emerging trends. There has been a development of innovative and high-quality supply chain policies and reformed and improved supply chain processes (BinaryStream, 2013). This is from mapping technological concepts in SAP to actual supply chain mechanisms.

SAP has provided services which have transformed businesses through a holistic consulting process that integrates strategic and organizational finest details involving planning and production systems. By this, businesses are able to combine planning-based approaches with a philosophy aimed at lean production. SAP has enabled businesses to devise, design, implement and evaluate supply chain measurement through its tools and methods. Such tools and methods include (Steinfield, Markus & Wigand, 2011):

  • SAP focuses on business performance measurements that are loaded with performance pointers to enable adherence to company goals. Consequently, a collection of measures which positively affects the decision making are devised. SAP uses cause-and-effect analysis in measuring performance of the supply chains. The cause-and-effect analysis has enabled businesses to streamline performance indicators so as to focus on only those that will make the supply chains efficient.
  • SAP applies a firm top-down approach and vertical consistency and across every supply chain indicator. It starts from the top most corporate goals and objectives derived from the function or corporate policy therefore objectives and performance can be mapped and measured vertically. By this, business departments or divisions are aligned with the overall company’s goals.
  • SAP applies industry best practices and frameworks such as APICS in different views of supply chains to enhance definition and selection of suitable performance indicators. Businesses using SAP has therefore enjoyed the benefits of the SAP’s use of experiences from other customer projects as well as from documented best practices and benchmarks. Such benefits have enabled several businesses to adapt to the industrial-wide tested and accepted standards to boost their supply chain experience. In addition, these industry best practices and frameworks have enabled businesses to create automated supply chain performance indicators to employ in specific critical processes.

Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier (2002) notes that use of SAP in businesses has enabled them to model and simulate optimization of several patterns of supply chain issues. Therefore, companies have been offered a chance to test various opportunities in the supply chain before deciding on which ones should be pursued based on the anticipated benefits and in which order should the opportunities be pursued. The risks attached to each one of the opportunities can easily be determined through simulation and effective mitigation techniques devised.

SAP SCM has enabled businesses to evaluate their primary processes identifying main challenges to restructure future workflows (Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier, 2002). Therefore, companies have identified potential areas of supply chains that require improvement based on major performance pointers. The outcomes and benefits realized can be correctly evaluated to derive other performance indicators. This way, the businesses using SAP SCM are fully evolving while adapting to various changes in the supply chain environment so as to reap maximum revenues in their pursuits.

SAP SCM has made supply chain processes to become more effective. SAP SCM has enabled suppliers, partners and customers to share the necessary resources and knowledge required in intelligent adjustments to the ever changing markets. Businesses are enabled to replenish their inventory and carry out production on the basis of the actual demand. This is due to the fact that SAP SCM supports the changing synchronization of demand-oriented planning and logistics based on real-time information about supply chain system execution (Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier, 2002). A business enjoys the analysis service which assesses the potential benefits that can be derived from effective supply chains management; a service that has helped companies maximize the power of SAP to gain the entire business-wide network collaboration and visibility from analytics of the supply chains.

The analytics of SAP SCM has enabled businesses to optimize their business processes and efficiency through a business-oriented architecture. SAP has built a process-driven, organizational and practical concept for building a solution for supply chain management (Wood, 2012).

The SAP SCM has enabled businesses to react quickly to challenges and risks through provision of complete visibility over end-to-end supply chain process which has brought about improved customer service, partner satisfaction and time cycles. The intuitive interface for users has centralized the supply chain data into one repository which has provided much functionality in form of root-cause analysis. This is aimed at preventing or correcting problems and to alert potential problems based on the past data and performance compared to benchmarks, targets and several other benefits (Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier, 2002).

SAP SCM provides an end-to-end visibility solution to supply chain performance thus organizations have been enabled to define and implement a policy to improve their supply chains (Wood, 2012). Businesses have also developed strategies to implement, manage, measure and monitor their supply chains. Effective supply chain management has enabled many organizations achieve their goals and objectives.

Businesses have been transformed to be more profitable and stable by ensuring their customers and suppliers are satisfied. There is no hindrance from end to end in the supply chain process; it is a smooth transition from the receipt of raw materials to production and to distribution. Wood (2012) asserts that SAP achieves this by integrating the demand and supply processes and prior planning: through sales, spare parts and processes planning in conjunction with best practices in supply chains.  Collaboration models involving sourcing, supplier and procurement have enabled businesses to weigh between various course of action to provide means by which supply chain risks can be mitigated.

Further, companies can analyze their supply chain management capacity to support their decision making processes concerning supply chains (Knolmayer, Mertens & Zeier, 2002). This takes many forms including: identification of potential areas for profitable supply chain management, evaluation of potential for improvement, consideration of IT abilities, policy, organization and processes, identification of possible steps to develop the identified potential and proposals for intended processes all aimed at transforming the supply chains. Companies can therefore adequately optimize their supply chains to keep in sight of the maximum benefits that can be obtained thereon.

Supply chains constitutes a natural environment to focus on so as to derive or drive value and to tackle constant cost pressures in addition to meeting other rising challenges (Deloitte, 2014). There exist rigid regulatory controls which have an impact on companies thus they must strengthen quality control and improve visibility. Additionally, while businesses have employed efforts to minimize costs, a lot need to be saved. For many managers, the issue is determining how and where to start. SAP advocates for focusing on smaller ideas to achieve maximum outcomes in a small duration of time. It sees the bigger picture in transforming everything ranging from estimations to planning and to execution. SAP improves the supply chain management to help businesses take tough measures to address these challenges and others. SAP transforms the supply chain management technologically though this transformation is related to business issues (Deloitte, 2014).

SAP has assisted businesses from all industries, several large and successful companies globally in the transformation of the company’s supply chains. SAP Supply Chain Performance Management has leveraged cross-industry benchmarks and best practices to give organizations superior control over their supply chains and ultimate business outcomes (Wood, 2012). SAP has provided techniques to plan for mitigation against risks and disruptions in order to achieve optimized supply chains and eventually realize superior revenues.

Companies are continually challenged by incoherent customer demands and a high expectation to respond to customer needs because the supply chain has become more complicated. The increasingly unpredictable and complex demand and supply creates more pressure on supply chains. Greater revenues are possible if a company is highly responsive to customer expectations which are steadily growing. Today, supply chains are mainly spread out in the global networks resulting to lack of visibility making decision making difficult. Consequently, speed and precise planning and execution are greatly hampered. SAP with its supply chain management modules has improved the way businesses handle their inventory and customers (Bort, 2013). Customers can therefore receive their ordered items on time; companies can adequately respond to customer needs creating a capacity to capitalize on opportunities. SAP goes a long way in reducing the amount of time from planning to execution through real-time data analysis to enhance collaboration across all departments in a business. SAP also has facilitated provision of important business information on demand thus decision making in matters of supply chain management is greatly enhanced.

SAP SCM has enabled organizations to drive constant improvement by assisting them to accurately identify the appropriate supply chain enablers. It has helped businesses to map and align their strategies with their goals through alignment of their supply chains to the performance strategy as well as helping them to measure and analyze their goals and performance. SAP SCM has also affected the supply chain management by setting targets and benchmarks with the best in industry. Performance can be measured through charts, dashboards, reports and other means such as what-if analysis after which collaboration is conducted if SAP SCM analytics necessitates it so as to resolve any gaps in the supply chain performance. This way, a continuous improvement is realized. SAP SCM presents visibility across the process of supply chain while performing real-time root-cause analysis to allow businesses know the relationship between several metrics and how they can affect each other (Steinfield, Markus, & Wigand, 2011). Russell & Taylor (2006)outlines the following four key supply chain enablers: the organizational infrastructure detailing how business and functional units are organized and the way they are coordinated, how technology affects the strategic and operational supply chains, how customers and external businesses such as suppliers and logistics providers are selected and how the underlying relationships are developed and maintained, how responsibilities are designed.

SAP has made businesses rethink their supply chains in areas of responsiveness, collaboration, operations and distribution (Wood, 2012). Businesses can now know and document the demand for every product in the markets on-demand through improved responsiveness. They have built and adjusted their profitable plans across business lines and partners through collaboration. SAP has also made businesses to introduce quick and lean demand and supply processes through enhanced operations and they have moved to on-demand transportation spanning all their distribution centres (Wood, 2012). The benefits of using SAP to advance supply chain processes is depicted in the estimates that it decreases inventory write-off, lowers revenue loss from depletion of stock, increases the time to deliver as well as completeness of the order and decrease cash cycle times. Further, SAP implementation has improved the level of forecast accuracy (Crampton & Rosemann, 2014).

Case study 1: Use of SAP in transformation of the supply chain management

Data visibility and quality issues in the supply chain caused increasing inefficiencies in an international pharmaceutical firm and hampered the company’s ability to conduct effective planning. The company had operations in more than nine countries supported by a set of traditional systems thus it required a solution to address the shortcomings and the core business operations. Implementation of SAP to manage product lifecycle delivered solid data management abilities as well as improved visibility. The legacy information systems had obscured end to end information visibility in the supply chain thus affecting its good delivery of services. Collaborating with business partners became harder and operational costs soared. The resulting set of systems scaled poorly since the firm continually grew. In spite of the company’s successful record, it knew that a new approach would assist manage the supply chain complexities and facilitate continued growth.  The implementation of SAP has brought about a new business solution for improved services and operations, better product management, and improved supply chain management as well as collaboration with business partners (Deloitte, 2014).

Case study 2: Implementation of SAP to boost Colgate-Palmolive’s Supply Chains

Colgate-Palmolive Inc. is a company dealing in consumer products and services related to oral and nutrition with revenue of approximately US $ 13.9 billion. It is located in New York and has employed around 36,000 people and has partnership with SAP Consulting. The company had experienced the following challenges and opportunities: shift focus to short-term demand indicators and need to respond fast to unpredicted demand. The objective of the company was to establish replenishment and ordering during downstream demand instead of high-level forecasting. The implementation process was scheduled to take place in the first year and subsequent installation in Italy and Brazil in three to four months. SAP SCM application was aimed at leveraging the existing SAP system to comprehensively support customer and supplier collaboration. The benefits that were realized include: streamlined inventory processes, improved and timely access to all customer data, minimal manual order processing, and planners were enabled to concentrate on analyzing business effects as need to cleanse data was reduced and the company was able to store a large quantity of products in stock when main promotions took place through effective forecasts and planning for promotions (Crampton & Rosemann, 2014).

Oracle Effects on Supply Chain Management Performance

A performance-oriented approach is implemented on a manufacturing enterprise but Oracle yearns to provide a streamlined, effective supply chains (Oracle, 2013). Oracle has enabled enterprises to focus on initiatives that enhance performance to reduce operational and inventory costs while improving customer service through timelier and superior product availability. This execution which is almost flawless is realized by Oracle’s ability to present a crystal-clear visibility to supply chains to determine problems on time and make adjustments in real time to supply chain management. With Oracle, businesses have been able to have on-demand and real time information needed to manage their day to day operational performance: businesses have been enabled to track their most valuable products in terms of profitability, investigate issues with production early before they develop to be critical bottlenecks, determine issues related to product quality, and monitor operational performance to constantly improve customer service and maintain costs (Capgemini, n.d.).

Oracle’s supply chain analytics has enabled businesses to plan on how to produce in the making of production process in order to clarify materials, capacity, and disparities in customer demand, and plan how various changes will affect the other elements of the plan. It has also enabled companies to plan on process of source-to-settle in order to understand how a supplier can well adapt and respond to engineering changes or orders, the quality of products of every supplier, and determine whether a product quality has a negative impact on the final product. In the process of order-to-cash, Oracle has clarified everything ranging from the product promotions that are most effective and with which means to which freight carriers and warehouses possess the highest responsiveness (Capgemini, n.d.). Oracle analytics have also been instrumental in identifying the customers that make their payments on time or as per the dates specified on the invoice. The analytics determine whether disputes related with payments and collections are effectively and efficiently managed, and whether issues with product quality have contributed to the increased payment disputes.

Businesses require an increasing variety of products, a growing number of delivery channels, and a higher reliance on emerging and enhanced technology. Oracle has served the role of technology to help business realize the business need to have an efficient and worthwhile supply chains. In addition, the norm is establishment of cross-functional business activities and has resulted to creation of mutual dependencies and interconnectivities across functions and business lines. Oracle has tackled these complex business pursuits leading to increased overhead costs which have made conventional cost accounting systems outdated. Oracle has delivered Business Intelligence (BI) that goes beyond legacy accounting practices to support strategic decision making. Overhead costs in businesses have been traced on the cause-and-effect basis to provide the actual costs of supply chains and forecasted benefits (Capgemini, n.d.).

Oracle Supply Chain & Order Management Analytics has provided source-based business adapters to dramatically minimize the effort and time required to extract data and transform it from different enterprise systems, such as, legacy SAP or Oracle systems into east-to-use, actionable and integrated insights. The solution has enabled companies to efficiently manage their supply chains, customers and improve performance through (Gerald, King & Natchek, 2001):

  • Improved inventory management to handle items that are constantly in the backlog as a result of lack of proper stock levels.
  • Effective management of order booking, backlogs and billing.
  • Identification of slow-paying customers, reduced days sales outstanding and billing issues through improved cash collections.
  • Analysis of discounts, returns, order cancellations and inventory levels.
  • Provision of timely order, cancellations, margin, returns and discounts data; reducing the amount of time spent on compilation, reconciliation and consolidation of data from disjointed systems to allow more time to spent on analysis, making decisions and implementation.

Have businesses realized the importance of carrying out cause-and-effect analysis to determine the role of supply chains in their growth and profitability? Are the supply chain processes smooth enough to help businesses gain competitive advantages over their rivals? Armed with Oracle’s profitability and incisive cost analysis, businesses have made quality strategic decisions about their supply chains. Oracle Supply Chain & Order Management Analytics has leveraged the power of real-time and actionable information to enhance the process of decision making and ultimately bring about performance optimization (Gerald, King & Natchek, 2001). More effectively hidden data is unlocked including order management, financial data and supply chain applications to provide extra insights to enable action. Businesses have derived costs and benefits information for specific supply chains based on geographical markets, customers and products. Monitoring of the productivity, efficiency, effectiveness and capacity utilization of supply chain activities has never been that easy without technology. Oracle has provided the supply chain performance power that has ensured that businesses conduct their supply chains in the most efficient and profitable way possible. Today, organizations have invested a lot to enable them achieve an efficient supply chain to ignite a successful collaboration between suppliers, customers and partners and to realize a continual growth.

Oracle have empowered businesses to determine the supply chain and economic impact of operational and strategic decisions in matters of operations, resources, products, suppliers, customers, partners and distribution channel costs. The power to make correct and practical strategic decisions plays an integral role in making a business successful today and in future. Oracle has enabled the strategic managers to make practical decisions regarding the supply chains and their management through real-time information having put into account both internal and external factors. Oracle creates several models from which results are effortlessly obtained without recourse to batch processes (Gerald, King & Natchek, 2001). Oracle uses visual pie and bar charts among other reporting objects to analyze any model towards outcomes obtained. Many dimensions of costs, opportunities, benefits and profitability are examined based on a product and/or customer division. Businesses using Oracle have been enabled to perform trend and variance analysis through concrete research details to realize the forecasted demand.

Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise Supply Chain Management (OPSESCM) has provided a flexible, synchronized and cohesive solution for the supply chains. This has driven efficiencies in increased revenue and cost savings in the course of the supply chains including the processes in the dimension of order-to-cash and plan-to-produce. Oracle has extended the supply chains of businesses in real time by means of integrating customers, suppliers and partners with their business processes (Gerald, King & Natchek, 2001). This has resulted to a business environment whereby all stakeholders in the supply chain process are coupled as one entity thus significant amount of time and energy is saved and consequently business enjoy cost reduction and improved revenue. Supply chain processes are effortless and take minimal time thus the workforce which was previously tasked with massive manual work is reduced. So does the business-wide costs. Oracle has provided an embedded analytics which has helped businesses track their supply chain performance to adjust to changing business goals, conditions and markets (Oracle, 2013).

Enterprises depend on the reliability of their suppliers while performance enables ones business. Therefore, Oracle has come in to determine better sourcing which goes beyond comparison of supplier prices. A good rating system requires businesses to determine how a supplier affects their overall organization from the packing area to the destination and to the finance and accounting departments after the entire supply chains is complete. Oracle has helped decipher the underlying obstacles towards achieving a clear transition of goods from the supplier all the way to the payment and accounting section (Kanaracus, 2012). Oracle collects critical information from the entire company to offer a full view of suppliers’ performance. Therefore, businesses have used this information to pick the best group of suppliers, negotiate healthier contracts, lower supply disruption and variability, and confidently adjust sourcing policies as business requirements change over time. Business are able to  constantly rate and measure every supplier to determine areas where changes to policy would result to better supply chains options and purchasing benefits. Additionally, enterprises have been able to leverage their whole supplier base in addition to purchasing power in order to decide on contract formations (Oracle, 2013). Oracle have presented organizations with an ability to identify critical information and processes from all systems across their business including manufacturing, financial and distribution systems in real time and with a 360 degree view of every supplier’s performance. This way, businesses have boosted their supply chains thus enjoying significant developments. Oracle has enabled businesses to collaborate with their suppliers so as to securely share performance targets, assessments and measures with suppliers. Oracle sends automatic e-mails to all suppliers who score below a specified threshold based on a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).  This has helped suppliers understand the way in which they measure their performance to determine accurately how they can adjust their services to meet the changing business environment. Oracle has a predefined set of KPIs from which businesses leverage to obtain the information they need to make strategic decisions (Oracle, 2013).

Oracle has helped businesses to get rid of every weak link that may arise (Oracle, 2013). Businesses are assured that suppliers will deliver on time from schedules that are continually monitored through real-time communication. Oracle has removed the need to wholly rely on actual counts to maintain accuracy by electronically accounting for every piece inventory.

According to Oracle (2013), Oracle PeopleSoft Supply Chain Warehouse has assisted organizations to retain firm control over their supply chains while cutting costs. Coupled with robust analysis and reporting tools and a thorough data repository, Oracle PeopleSoft Supply Chain Warehouse has provided enterprises with an integrated view of their supply chains so they can analyze their performance from procurement and inventory process to manufacturing efficiency and production schedules and appropriately adjust before issues affect their profitability, ability to exploit new opportunities and profitability.

Businesses have been offered a superior foundation for strategic and operational supply chain decisions from seamless and integrated data marts to deliver the measures, maps and models needed to run a cost effective and efficient supply chain (Oracle, 2013). These marts have provided a unified source of data for supply chains’ analysis and reporting. Additionally, these data marts have provided best practices in analysis without need for an entire warehouse implementation. There are marts that are for fulfilling and billing that tracks orders, customers, invoices, logistic transactions and returns to help enterprises evaluate their order-to-cash procedure and ensure timely delivery of high-quality products. Inventory marts have enabled organizations to analyze inventory demand, accuracy, turns and movements so they can cut off excess without jeopardizing their flexibility. Supply chain data mart has enabled businesses to analyze how their actual order purchasing, inter unit transfers, fulfilment, inventory levels, capacity utilization and production have aligned to their supply chain plan to make the necessary adjustments so that they can keep their supply chains running efficiently (Oracle, 2013).

 Oracle has enhanced optimization of supply chains to avoid business financial constraints in situations when there is a decline in demand and an increase in inventory levels is experienced. It prepares businesses determine how to mitigate this business cycle of demand pressure while exerting a powerful positive effect on company performance. Oracle provides access to data has enabled businesses to make informed decisions to realize a synchronized and integrated supply chains (Oracle, 2013). Supply chain management entails procurement, sourcing, logistics and conversion management of every flow of materials from suppliers to customers. Oracle integrates all these processes to timely and effectively maximize throughput, eliminate inefficiencies and bottlenecks to ensure that a business delivers products to its customers while meeting all the customer’s needs. Oracle has overcome all the coordination challenges across all supply chain functions to manage these critical business solutions. For companies to survive for a long time and compete successfully, they must have an effective and reliable supply chains to counter the ever growing global economy. If a company cannot match others in terms of efficient supply chains, it will not enjoy a continuous development as it will lose its customers, partners and suppliers. Therefore, this competitive global economy requires a company to have a proper supply chain management for it to remain competitive.  Oracle’s SCM includes demand management, sales planning, operations management, product development, and logistics and supply management (Plunkett, 2009). Oracle-based customized transportation management have provided businesses with seamless and integrated solutions to help optimize all and end-to-end routing and planning prior to delivery through a real-time monitoring all the way to their invoicing and auditing on delivery.

Enterprises seek to improve on their supply chain management performance to be more competitive and profitable. An integrated method of supply chain management has helped businesses increase productivity, reduce costs and simplify business processes. Businesses therefore seek to have clear visibility in their supply chains to leverage benefits resulting from smooth flow of materials and end products. Oracle has helped many businesses including some in the Fortune 500 to drive profits from proper management of their supply chains (Oracle, 2013). Businesses have been empowered to meet strict demands while not sacrificing effectiveness and efficiency. 

Oracle Supply Chain & Order Management Analytics has delivered extreme customer insights into inventory and order data thus empowering businesses to make superior decisions in every stage in the lifecycle of supply chain management (Rasheed, 2012). By leveraging fact-based and actionable insights, organizations have been enabled to enhance their customer satisfaction and financial performance.  Oracle has enabled companies to assess levels of inventory, probable product fulfilment requirements, fast identification of prospective order backlogs and stay above critical day’s sales outstanding challenges. The insights derived from these analytics have delivered actionable procedure to tackle short-term issues as well as strategic inputs to determine how to transform the existing supply chains. Revenues have been maximized through availing enough goods to satisfy customer orders and keeping costs and inventory levels as low as possible. Further, Oracle has provided actionable information needed to carry out intelligent order analysis in relation to periods, products and regions.

Today, companies using Oracle have been enabled to cope with multiple factors that affect the efficiency, timeliness and quality of their supply chains. According to Rasheed (2012), businesses can now cope with:

  • Global economic and financial instabilities.
  • Pressure to boost their profit margins and revenue.
  • Value chain complexities.
  • Customer and supplier service demands.

By using Oracle to streamline supply chain management approach, organizations have met demands while safeguarding efficiency, reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction for increased profitability. Oracle has optimized supply chains efficiency through a number of ways including (Rasheed, 2012):

  • Deriving an accurate, specific product views through centralized information.
  • Distributed order coordination through management of orders across many systems in a single place.
  • Delivery of accurate demand-oriented forecasts to achieve greater inventory coordination and control.
  • Improved visibility to supply chains.
  • Reduced transportation and freight costs.
  • Improved logistics while offering flexibility in delivery options.
  • Maximized potential of gaining cutting-edge supply chain solutions to derive precise insights to the supply chains by leveraging Oracle system analytics and business intelligence.

Oracle have led to a greater understanding of the potential benefits in terms of competitive advantage that can be derived from optimized supply chains by focusing on effective supply chain performance techniques and processes.  Supply chain management optimization is a key factor of competitive advantage in businesses especially manufacturers (Oracle, 2013). In today’s business environments, businesses have devised their supply chains to discover opportunities for reducing costs and to demand and guarantee quality of inputs and timeliness of delivery. The supply chain management have become very critical for greater revenue and profitability thus input quality should be transferred to the end product to increase the willingness to purchase. The sourcing and acquisition of materials and goods has a direct impact on the costs of products thus the outcome.

Unlike industries dealing in goods, service industries cannot adequately describe their strategic impact on greater supply chain management. These are companies that provide IT services, consultancy, and legal services. These companies apply different best practice principles compared to manufacturers since factors such as quality and timely delivery of services cannot be precisely accounted for (Rasheed, 2012). Tactical supply chain concepts commonly practiced in the manufacturing industry such as centralized sourcing and procurement are not completely leveraged in the services industry. There is no direct connection between a service company and the services it offers to its customers unlike in the manufacturing industry. Oracle has brought the economic impact to service industries similar to that experienced in the manufacturing industry in form of an enhanced supply chains. Oracle has achieved this feat by controlling costs and improving the input quality to improve the quality of end products so as to boost the demand of their services. Service industries have direct inputs from their individual supply chains, for example, an insurance company has legal services, externally adjusted claims and external auditors directly affecting the outcome of insurers which can be a main factor in their competitiveness so as to be different from rivals.  The timeliness and quality of their consultation services is the driving factor towards competitiveness. Oracle has assisted service industries to ensure that they deliver quality and timely services to meet the dynamic compliance and regulatory needs to avoid reputational risks, fines and be guaranteed of high revenues, profitability and continuous growth. Rasheed (2012) argues that supply chain techniques and processes are maturing in the service industries necessitating strategic and solid supply chain management to achieve the potential to build a competitive advantage. Oracle has presented service industries with the capacity to enhance spending on service sourcing and execution as well as delivery thus improving their supply chains to achieve the same superiority gained by manufacturing industries (Gerald, King & Natchek, 2001).

Oracle Effects on Supply Chain Management Performance: Information Technology

In addition to impacts on supply chain management performance to an organization, Oracle has a great impact on information technology in that it has ():

  • Accelerated deployment of supply chain data warehouse from its appliance in business environments. Oracle joins a league of other systems in a business with each system designed to accomplish a specific task.
  • Integrated data from many sources to offer business users a whole view of the supply chain management and customer processes.
  • Provided key information on inventory and orders.
  • Adapted to dynamic internal and external requirements by leveraging existing software investments.
  • Reduced the burden on human and IT resources through thorough self-service capabilities (Capgemini, n.d.).

Case study: Use of Oracle at Herbalife Inc.

Herbalife is a leading premier well-being and health company with its headquarters in California, US with retail sales of approximately US $ 1.3 billion. Herbalife had been using product releases but it needed an efficient tool and process to help in prediction of demand for its new products. The company also wanted a single platform to enable plan the supply chains across every product category to enable system-oriented booking and accounting. Herbalife had Oracle applications for planning, inventory and financials. However, Herbalife needed an approach to achieve a superior supply chain management performance. Upon implementation of Oracle Application Release 11.5.9, process complexities were reduced and Herbalife experienced process efficiencies. The better supply chain planning enhanced inventory turns and reduced stock outs. The solution also enabled Herbalife to adhere to harmonized supply chain management practices in areas of procurement, planning and execution. Overall, the supply chain management process including manufacturing, financial accounting, procurement and distribution was streamlined (Infosys Limited, 2014).

Oracle SCM modules has helped enterprises manage their entire flow of materials, services and information from supplier’s raw materials through manufacturing warehouses and factories to the destined customer (Infosys Limited, 2014)). The efficient flow of the processes leading to the end product and distribution of this product to the end client by far improves customer satisfaction and reduces the entire business costs. Furthermore, improved supply chains saves time for strategic and operational management to tackle other demanding business tasks.

Microsoft Dynamics Effects on Supply Chain Management Performance

Today, the supply chain forms the major challenge that ERPs must address effectively and efficiently to realize growth. Luszczak (2012) writes that a poorly functioning and inefficient supply chain has a potential to adversely impact all aspects of a retail business, endangering its success and long-term performance. Microsoft Dynamics has provided full inventory and order transparency throughout the supply chain (Luszczak, 2012). It has helped its users interact accurately and quickly with their supply chain collaborators. Higher cross-enterprise transparency has empowered sales people with integrated and updated information about new products, advertisements, and late-changing orders in production scheduling and customer demand process.  

One of the widely used retailing principles is detailed retail and is the cause of the challenge in that it is demanding to determine how to become extra detailed and assess the details to be focused on. Every retailer understands that one of the most important requirements is availing products to its customers. The best and potentially developing organizations can be challenged by manufacturing, selling and distribution processes. The supply chain management determines what a business reaps from its pursuits as it influences customer satisfaction and profitability. Microsoft Dynamics enables business drive change from its business processes by changing the whole method of supply chain management to keep pace and adjust accordingly (Ray, 2010). A poor and inefficiently performing supply chains negatively affects all aspects of a retail business, endangering business success and both short-term and long-term performance.

Microsoft Dynamics enable businesses to be successful and maintain competitiveness by offering enterprise-wide buy-in to excellence of supply chain (Hamilton, 2009). Current performance and processes need to be re-evaluated with existing performance and processes with key trends such as demand planning, price pressures, online collaboration, globalization and complex and shorter product life cycles. Microsoft Dynamics enables enterprises align their supply chains with the business policy to support their businesses with appropriate strategy, technology and organizational processes.  To achieve success, enterprises must adopt supply chain superiority as a fundamental source of competency at every level throughout the enterprise and understand that supply chain execution is implemented in several areas since some enterprises recognize only the practical supply chain performance (atBusiness, 2013). Microsoft Dynamics works together with leading enterprises and assists them handle their business issues.

Microsoft Dynamics has transformed many key businesses in consumer products, food and beverage, industrial manufacturing and high tech by causing significant change and impact to retailer’s supply chain performance using five major trends including (Ray, 2010):

  • A demand-oriented approach to help retailers create a customer –driven mindset while adhering to high operational efficiency. Demand planning excellence is often as a result of a unified organizational structure. Organizations who possess the right techniques and committed resources invested into demand planning and market forecasts reap better outcomes and derive huge value from their investments. Improved forecasting and demand planning forms an integral role in the supply chain management performance.
  • Supply chain management and globalization: today’s business environment is fast becoming entirely global due to improved means of transport and communication. Internet has been a driving force in that a company in US can adequately communicate with a manufacturer in Japan in real time.  Improved communications have largely contributed to the dramatic globalization of enterprises while greatly affecting the way businesses are managed in terms of transactions. Supply chain is the area of business which is mainly affected by the global business trends. Microsoft Dynamics has integrated a global supplier and customer base in sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, invoicing, accounting and returns by using existing businesses processes and making them flexible enough to handle this global and ever changing business environment. Retailers have therefore enjoyed a customer base spanning wider geographical areas in a timely manner and effortlessly through efficient supply chain management.
  • Global price pressures and competition: internet has greatly changed shopping habits now and in the years to come. E-commerce has opened the world creating a non-geographic retail experience – a retail environment without need to physically visit the store. Traditionally, product features, brand recognition and brand were enough information to differentiate products in the market. The continued commoditization of several products has forced enterprises to seek better ways of distinguishing themselves. Brand equity and product innovation has ceased to allow retailers command higher prices in the market. Microsoft Dynamics enables enterprises to continue competing with commoditized products by making significant cost reductions with a re-designed and efficient supply chain management.  It has helped retailers reduce costs and create a more effective value chain to establish a competitive edge for them. Additionally, retailers are now able to look at ways that can offer value-added services required for meeting the demands of complex customers. Therefore, Microsoft Dynamics have enabled retailers to carry out their supply chains in a more effective way to realize cost reduction benefits and gain competitive advantage. Traditional means of product differentiation have been replaced with an effective supply chain management to realize the same benefits.
  • Shortened and sophisticated product lifecycles: due to the inclination of the economy towards being more global, compliance and labelling in packaging regulations and requirements have become a critical determinant of success. Observation of local labelling, packaging and compliance to regulations is a key factor in distributing a product in a certain locality. Microsoft Dynamics has offered a foundation to manage product lifecycle and processes to ensure that products are created and targeted for particular markets, are compliant to regulations and well managed. This product management lifecycle has helped enterprises gain abilities to constantly bolster demand through labelling and packaging design and innovation. Microsoft Dynamics have transformed retailers through implementation of optimal product lifecycles to allow them effectively manufacture and distribute their products targeted for consumer preferences and regional promotions.
  • Partnerships and integration with suppliers and clients: need for intensive collaboration and integration between suppliers and customers have been necessitated by the ever growing supply chains. Microsoft Dynamics evolve with the developing supply chains to ensure that an enterprise is always covered in the area of sourcing, procurement and logistics and to eliminate hindrances that may come with new supply chains. Collaboration levels goes beyond connecting information systems in business to integrate processes across enterprises that encompass the entire value chain. Microsoft Dynamics performs this collaboration to enhance end-to-end visibility through the entire value chain in order to make improved strategic decisions and ultimately reduce costs related to the value chain. With right techniques, organizational structure and processes in place, collaboration has provided enterprises with vital information necessary to make critical decisions. Microsoft Dynamics analytics has brought about significant analysis and reporting abilities which have enabled businesses to draw tangible conclusions in matters regarding supply chain management.  Retailers are more and more conducting their supply chains to gain competitiveness and grow their market share; they are highly spending a lot of energy and time in the supply chain management. Therefore, Microsoft Dynamics usage in businesses can be taken as a driver of supply chain excellence as forward-thinking retailers have widely adopted supply chains as a component of business policy to increase value to suppliers and customers.

The Microsoft Dynamics system has developed vertical solutions to manage the needs of distribution resulting to less complex supply chains. The Dynamics has improved solutions in inventory and transportation optimization, product lifecycle, logistics, replenishment optimization, procurement, manufacturing, e-commerce and collaboration platform. It has helped realize innovative supply chain which has driven cost reductions, met customer expectations and improve services better than ever experienced before. Microsoft Dynamics has sought the appropriate balance for organizational investments, technology and processes to drive a sustainable and improved supply chain performance. Increased investment in supply chains including use of technologies such as Microsoft Dynamics has increased the capacity to achieve essential and sustainable improvements (Ray, 2010).

Hamilton (2009) asserts that Microsoft Dynamics has extremely transformed the supply chain management. It has streamlined the distribution lifecycle and helped gain quick access to correct information leading to reduced input errors. Additionally, automatic sharing of information has substantially reduced the supply chain phases to six for businesses using Microsoft Dynamics. It has also enabled businesses to maintain updated information about stock availability resulting improved accuracy of commitments promised to clients. By linking the flow of information and products through businesses and processes, Microsoft Dynamics have made it possible for everyone to access the information needed. This has resulted to faster delivery of information to support decisions proactively at the most appropriate time in the supply chains. It has also led to provision of required data for planning of demand and automatic stock replenishment resulting to managed inventories, reduced costs, well monitored cycle times and adequate supply chain process traceability. Microsoft Dynamics has offered an integrated business solution with real-time information thus has enhanced communication and subsequently it has strengthened collaboration. Hamilton (2009) notes that Microsoft Dynamics has effectively  bridged the whole supply chain by bringing higher transparency and effective connectivity to worldwide supply chains thus empowering organizations to cope with today’s challenges and eventually stand out in the competitive marketplaces.

Microsoft Dynamics has integrated information from businesses and their entire supply chains resulting to synchronized real-time movement of products and improved productivity in distribution processes. This thorough and fully integrated solution has helped businesses to balance between the supply chain demands and improving movement of product in order to grow sales, decrease costs, and increase fill rates. With integrated and strengthened transport execution alternatives, Microsoft Dynamics has helped companies to speed up and simplify their transportation tasks. These have resulted to economical load building, automatic carrier tasks, and generation of quick and compliant documentation to boost efficiency, reduce costs and eliminate errors. Furthermore, it has led to easy tracking of shipments as necessary to preserve end-to-end visibility throughout the distribution and ensure appropriate delivery to achieve customer satisfaction (Microsoft, 2014).

Case study: Implementation of Microsoft Dynamics at World Vision

World Vision is an organization dealing with humanitarian work in over 100 countries with an aim of building a better environment for children through addressing their needs in health, education, economic development, sanitation, hygiene, food, water and agriculture. Every year, World Vision used approximately US $ 300 million in donations and administered many shipments by sea, land and air.  An effective and efficient supply chain management is vital to every organization; World Vision opted for Microsoft Dynamics to carry out its supply chain management for its capacity to scale well globally as well as its flexibility. Mongolia has difficult terrain and vast geographical area which are unique supply chain challenges; World Vision implemented Microsoft Dynamics to remarkably enhance the performance of its supply chain which enabled the organization improve its influence on the lives of children (atBusiness, 2013).

Comparison of ERPs: SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics and how they affect Supply Chain Management Performance

It is intriguing to note that these three leading ERP suites have several differences and more importantly, they share common similarities in a number of ways, for example, the goal of their supply chain modules (Knolmayer & Zeier, 2005). SAP and Oracle are the biggest players in the ERP-run supply chains compared to Microsoft Dynamics. However, all the three have not been left behind by tendencies to incline towards cloud computing. Kanaracus (2012) notes that SAP is targeting its ERP suite for large companies as an on-premise system while Oracle is positioning its main suite for cloud deployment.

The table 1 below compares SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle using selection rates, benefits realized, implementation cost, and market share among other metrics. It is evident SAP has beaten Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics in the ERP market. However, due to its complexity and detailed nature, SAP takes long to implement. A detailed comparison is shown on the table 1 below.

Table 1: Source (Kimberling, 2013)

The three ERPs have complied with regulatory constraints, customer and supplier initiatives and global standards by supporting supplementary technologies such as bar code readers and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) among others. Customer demands involving shipment and product tracking and identification with complete, in-built support for RFIDs and Automated Data Collection Systems (ADCS). This has contributed to improved supply chains as there is no need for recourse to implement separate technologies to support such features. Furthermore, businesses can transact beyond their national boundaries as they are not constrained by regulatory requirements. Support for customer initiatives has improved customer as satisfaction leading to a harmonious collaboration in the process of supply chain management performance.

These ERPs have enhanced supply chain collaboration thus have enabled faster passage of new products as well as providing superior services that has raised the level of warranties, after-sales support and supplier-managed inventory. The three ERPs are built so as to fit an enterprise’s supply chain and never the inverse way. They come with a number of other transformational capabilities that has made it effortless for an entire business to collaborate and connect. They are also geared towards helping both strategic and operational managers to make fast and smarter decisions.

The three ERPs generally take long durations of time and a lot of energy to implement than initially expected. This suggests that the personnel involved must have the required expertise to tune these ERPs to fit the organizations’ supply chain for greater performance.

All the three ERPs have helped provide improved end-to-end visibility into the supply chain to enable businesses adapt to changing business environments and manage every bit of supply chain effectively and efficiently. They have enabled organizations gain visibility across dispersed supply, distribution and manufacturing networks. This has enabled them reduce costs, effectively manage inventories, reduce lead times and drive growth by changing the whole supply chain from a product-push approach to a demand-pull orientation. The three ERPs have helped provide improved supply chain visibility which has enabled businesses to enjoy several benefits including (Russell & Taylor, 2006):

  • Reduced exposure to risks in the supply chain operations by improving timeliness to understanding unexpected events, delays and changes. This has also enabled quick recovery from supply chain failures through ERP analytics and reporting that outline the best measures to counter such failures.
  • Real-time insights into all aspects of products with comprehensive, measurable inventory data sourced from material usage and real production rates. Inventory categorization and related attributes that can be configured including serial numbers and batching has helped companies track their products from production stage to distribution process.
  • Advantages of globalization of transportation, logistics and cross-enterprise views on orders which has enable proper planning resulting to more consolidated orders, better selection of best carriers, creation of efficient loads and optimization of delivery routing.
  • Modelled contractor abilities to determine outsourcing costs thus helping companies make quick, better and well-versed decisions related to ways of achieving efficient and effective supply chains.
  • Reduced response time achieved through configured customized alerts conveyed through e-mails, text message or onscreen to inform the appropriate people of key events and changes that need to be attended to.
  • Easily and effectively managed supply chains with thorough traceability of every raw material, components, shipment, and products including lots and serial numbers.
  • Improved customer satisfaction whereby customer service and sales personnel deliver quick, extra accurate quotations, information regarding lead times and availability, and reports on order status. Through improved customer service and more accurate information about quotations there is a smooth and quick supply chain experience.
  • Reduced capital and time through complete replenishment cycles derived from management techniques and processes including automatic replenishment signals to refine purchasing practices, reduce inventories and implement demand-oriented, timely and dealer-managed catalogues.

Examples of why some companies chose certain ERPs over the other in regards to their supply chain

In matters regarding supply chain management, is SAP the best ERP over Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle or is Oracle the best. Such fundamental questions are easy to answer as the choice for a particular system mainly relies on a company’s ICT facilities and expertise as well as its existing and projected needs.

SAP is severally considered than Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle during company’s’ selection for an ERP. It is not surprising to find that SAP is more often short-listed and by a bigger margin, approximately 35 % versus 24 % and 17 % for Oracle Systems and Microsoft Dynamics respectively. Over recent years, this has been consistent primarily because SAP enjoys brand recognition and a bigger market (Bort, 2013). Moreover, large organizations with global presence and a large capital base have considered SAP to be the ERP of their choice (Kimberling, 2013; Twentyman, 2013). Companies using SAP include (CMU, n.d.):

  • 7-Eleven, Inc: it is a convenience store recognized all over the world and with over 5,700 stores in Canada and US.
  • Accenture, Inc: it is a global technology, outsourcing and management consulting company. It collaborates with its customers to assist them become high performing businesses by developing solutions to help customers.
  • BP: it is part of the largest companies dealing in energy and providing its clients with fuel, energy for light and heat, petrochemicals and retail services. BP has over 28,000 gas stations globally.

Oracle is often selected that Microsoft Dynamics and SAP. SAP enjoys the largest market share but Oracle is selected by many companies than Microsoft Dynamics and SAP. Oracle is not often initially shortlisted compared to SAP making its market share to be lower than that of SAP, implying that Oracle could get a wider market share upon making its way into company’s initial shortlists. Examples of companies using Oracle: Capital Land, Maldives Police, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service and others (Kimberling, 2013).

Microsoft Dynamics takes less time to implement compared to Oracle and SAP therefore it is a choice for many small and medium businesses that have lesser capital and simpler supply chains. Microsoft Dynamics is typically used by less complex and smaller businesses than the Oracle and SAP. SAP and Oracle are mainly implemented by large enterprises that are characterized by complex and longer supply chains. Companies using Microsoft Dynamics include: D&W Dundas & Wilson, Bytes Technology, Metro Bank, LIVERPOOL VICTORIA and others (Microsoft, 2010; KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL ASSOCIATES LLC, 2014).

Organizations consider issues such as whether an ERP offers a fixed price, implementation scope, ease of system integration, upgrade costs, scalability, supply chain complexity and number of users supported. So who is the winner between SAP versus Oracle versus Microsoft Dynamics with regard to supply chain management performance? The answer is never clearly cut even if there is overwhelming data to support one ERP over the others. The choice depends on the business needs for supply chain management, priority and financial capacity of the company that wish to implement an ERP.

Conclusion

As distribution operations become more sophisticated with ever changing consumer needs, electronic and global markets, compliance initiative and several distribution channels, there are perennial challenges of accurately and timely delivery of products. These challenges can be successfully solved in ways that allows competitive advantage to be gained. Such methodologies include use of concrete coordination of enterprise-wide processes through all phases of supply chains and over the whole enterprise. True effectiveness in distribution is required to streamline business processes to allow well-timed access to necessary information in order to move goods at optimal speeds ((BinaryStream, 2013).

Supply chain management is extremely complex. Business managers must seek to gain a comprehensive end-to-end visibility into their business’s supply chain performance and to improve on flexibility to quickly respond to risks and disruptions in order to capitalize on competitive advantage (Russel & Taylor, 2006). Simultaneously, they need to devise ways of identifying and adapting to emerging trends in the supply chain. These demands emphasize the significance of possessing the right software techniques in place to manage risks and improve performance (BinaryStream, 2013). In the real world, these techniques help supply chain personnel align their processes and models with their organization’s primary business policies and provide visibility into supply chain processes.

Every company expecting to achieve tangible benefits from supply chain management performance require an investment an information system. Many companies have taken recourse to ERP suites, for example Oracle, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and others. These enterprise-wide software implementations encompass the complete supply chain. This implies that the software oversees the entire supply chain process from acquisition of raw materials up to actual selling and warranties. These software suites require a significant cost in terms of complexities, monetary, time and other resources required in the successful implementation to provide optimal supply chain management performance. Among the key success factors to implementation are buy-in by a company’s strategic management and sufficient training of the operational personnel. Every company must evaluate its ICT infrastructure, staff training and expertise, and their supply chain needs to select the best suitable ERP from the many choices that are ever growing. Moreover, companies must consider their financial ability as the ERPs come with different costs in terms of initial licence, personnel training, upgrading, annual subscription and internal expertise required.

Since there is a global inclination of technologies towards non-PCs and internet-based applications, companies must seek to take advantage of internet communications and ERPs with web-based abilities. Remember, those companies that do not seek to move with new and emerging technologies will always remain backward in competitiveness in the current fast growing global economy. Companies can exploit these emerging trends to enjoy real-time communication with their partners, customers and suppliers to improve on timeliness of informational updates which is vital to effective supply chain management.

Generally ERPs helps businesses get additional value from supply chains in the following ways (Russell & Taylor, 2006):

  • Optimization of business network through support of their assets, alignment of conversion costs, focusing on valuable clients and synchronizing demand with supply. These are areas where use of ERPs can trigger the difference, value and are not suitable for manual processes.
  • Enforcement of compliance and reduce material costs: ERPs enhances sourcing, planning and procurement and offers the capacity to convert data into useful information from where better can decisions can be made. ERP forms a platform for reducing costs and encountering crucial requirements.
  • Remove unnecessary operations through complex data collection to enhance reporting abilities so that performance is adequately tracked and to strengthen production scheduling.
  • Reduce the amount of time consumed from creation to marketing and pursue particular product innovations: Through integration of product lifecycle there is streamline of the product creation procedure and increased time from production to marketing. ERPs can result to labour savings of approximately 31 % to 49 % and reduce product lifecycle by approximately 50 %.
  • Provision of the correct product at right time and place: ERPs enable fast communication of right information throughout the operations and synchronization of logistics and transportation with all critical elements involved in the supply chain. Consequently, the improvements results to related benefits such as increased deliveries and on time, reduce delivery costs, reduce inventory requirements and enhance reverse logistics.

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Great opportunities for large-scale energy savings

Great opportunities for large-scale energy savings

Abstract

Our findings show that there exist great opportunities for large-scale energy savings through wind power, especially in areas with stronger and steadier wind, for example high altitude and offshore locations. More specifically, this work has explored use of wind power as a potential way of meeting massive energy savings through conversion of naturally replenished wind resources into energy intensive source of low cost and clean electric power.  Increased large-scale use of wind power has resulted into significant energy efficiency, energy security, economic benefits, and climate change control. As such, there is a solid backing for advancing wind energy source across the world, thus wind power  has increasingly been used away from its traditional application areas in USA and Europe. Energy is a crucial element of our daily lives, and large-scale wind energy projects offer a suitable alternative to the increasingly depleted oil and gas reservoirs. It can be summed up that wind power significantly contributes to energy efficiencies.

Introduction

The demand for oil and gas has considerably increased across the globe over the recent years, a trend that has decreased its availability and made it difficult for application of primary and secondary extraction techniques.  Most reservoirs have significantly reduced pressure levels upon successful application of the primary and secondary extraction methods. Luckily, innovative tertiary extraction methods have been devised in attempts to revive the ageing oil and gas by increasing their overall production life. This implies that there is need to seek alternative ways of generating energy in a manner that upholds tangible efficiencies and/or savings. To achieve energy security and sustainability goals, large-scale and innovative renewable energy methods should be developed on a considerable scale (Owen, Inderwildi & King 2010).

The considerable amount of energy used by the wide array of home, office, transport and industrial appliances have been a noteworthy concern in our current world (REN21 2014). The ever growing demand for electricity leads public and private utilities to seek new and more efficient methods of generating electric power. Therefore, there is need to implement innovative approaches geared towards large-scale energy savings. This work seeks to critically analyze an approach of achieving large-scale energy efficiencies or other resource savings, for example, water, wind, biomass and solar. However, this work focuses on large-scale application of wind power as an alternative electricity generation approach

Overview

Typically, renewable energy involves energy derived from naturally replaceable resources, for example, sunlight, water, and wind. It is a perfect alternative to conventional fuels, in four particular fields: electric power generation, motor or engine powers, off-grid energy services, and hot water or space heating (REN21 2011). According to REN21 (2014), renewables accounted for 22% and 19% to electricity generation and energy consumption in 2013 respectively. Globally, both, advanced renewable energy, for example, hydro, solar, wind, and biofuels, and additionally conventional biomass, delivered in about equivalent amounts to the energy supply. Geographically, renewable energy resources are widely spread as opposed to other modern energy sources that are concentrated in few countries (Johnston 2012). Therefore, renewable resources are a vital energy source, which can help realize unparalleled energy efficiencies across the world.

Wind energy has been in use for about two millennia, especially in wind-powered equipment for grounding grain and pumping water (United Press International 2012). As a matter of fact, wind power is generally accessible since it is not confined to a location, implying that it is a globally available resource. The development of electricity saw wind power discover new areas of application, such as lighting buildings from remotely generated power. According to Neslen (2014), the 20th century saw development of parallel ways as people realized the importance of wind stations to run steam engines for farming, and later large-scale utility wind generators for remote powering of electricity grids. Today, wind-powered generators work in all sizes from small stations, for example, battery charging in remote or rural areas to gigawatt-sized offshore wind projects that produce electrical power to serve national territories (REN21 2014).

Mainstream wind power technology

Wind currents have been applied in running large-scale wind turbines in a number of projects across the world. Currently, wind turbines covering utility-scale applications range from approximately 600 kilowatts (kW) to 5 megawatts (mW) of appraised electric power. However, turbines that have 1.5–3 mW in rated output are the most widely used for commercial purposes. The power that can be derived from wind is an element of its cube speed, thus as speed builds, the power yielded increases to the optimal or maximum yield for the specific turbine. Areas with stronger and increasingly constant winds, for example, high altitude and offshore regions, are the most suited locations for implementing wind farms. Typically, limit components are 20-40%, whereby the upper end of the reach in especially good sites (REN21 2011).

Globally, it is believed that the long-term capability of wind power is about 5 times aggregate current energy generation, and 40 times today’s electric power demand, provided that all barriers were successfully overcome (Nicola  & Vincenzo  2011). According to REN21 (2014), this requires installation of wind turbines over extensive regions, especially in locations with more wind resources as these areas have wind speeds with close to 90% more compared to normal land. Therefore, high altitudes and offshore areas can contribute significantly more wind energy than turbines stationed on the land. 

The impact of variations in wind consistency

What would be the effect of wind inconsistency to an electric grid that relying on wind power? Neslen (2014) argues that wind power is exceptionally consistent from one year to another, but has huge variations over shorter time-scales. This necessitates use of wind in conjunction with some other energy sources to provide a dependable supply. If wind power in an area increases, there is need to redesign the electric grid to allow for more production. According to Nicola & Vincenzo (2011),  there are different power management tools and techniques, including  provisioning to handle excess capacity, dispatch able support sources, adequate hydroelectric power, outsourcing and selling power to nearby grids, utilizing vehicle-to-grid systems, decreasing power demand as wind production decreases, and geographically distributing available turbines. These techniques play a vital role in overcoming wind availability and speed problems. Moreover, weather forecasting allows stakeholders to be prepared for probable variations in wind production.

Global wind power trends

Worldwide, there are currently more than 200,000 operating wind turbines, with an aggregate nameplate limit of 282,482 mW by the end of 2012. In September 2012, the European Union (EU) alone passed approximately 100,000 mW in nameplate capacity (United Press International 2012). On the other hand, in August 2012, the United States exceeded 50,000 mW. Global wind production capacity increased by almost 4 times from 2000 to 2006. The US spearheaded wind farms, driving other countries in introducing the installed capacity from the 1980s. Germany is also a key player in installation of wind farms, which China is rapidly expanding in the area in the 2000s (REN21 2011). By 2011, there were 83 countries across the world using wind energy commercially (Johnston 2012).

Wind farms have reached electric grid parity in a number of areas in Europe and U.S. in the 2000s. Decreased costs of wind power drive the desire to implement wind farms (Neslen 2014). While wind farms are capital intensive to implement, fuel costs are eliminated.

Environmental impacts

Wind energy is produced from wind currents using turbines or wind sails which create mechanical and electrical power. For example, windmills are typically used because of their mechanical capacity, while wind pumps are used to pump water, and sails for propelling ships. As an alternative to the widely used fossil fuels, Fthenakis  & Kim (2009) argues that wind power is plentiful, clean, and renewable, broadly distributed, creates no carbon footprint, and uses relatively less land. Neslen (2014) argues that the net environmental and natural resource impact for wind energy is less risky than that from non-renewable energy sources.

When compared with fossil fuels, wind power produces the lowest climate change impact, including global warming. However, wind turbines have been criticized for generating noise pollution. Aesthetically, wind turbines create a good visual landscape coupled with heritage and scenic regions (Millborrow 2010).

Large-scale wind farms

China’s Gansu Wind Farm and UK’s Whitelee Wind Farm are examples of large-scale onshore wind farms with a current capacity of 6,000 mW and 539 mW respectively (Watts 2012; Whitelee Wind Farm n.d.). A wind farm incorporates a collection of wind turbines implemented in the same area used for electric power production. Large-scale wind farms consist of several hundreds and thousands of wind turbines that are installed over a distributed area. The land that rest between turbines can be used for other purposes such as agriculture. All huge wind turbines are designed in a similar manner. Each turbine is connected to a medium voltage – typically 34.5 kV, and a power accumulation and communication networks. At substations, the medium voltage electric current is boosted in voltage using a transformer to connect to the high-voltage electricity transmission system (Nicola  & Vincenzo 2011).

Large-scale wind farms normally comprise of several wind turbines and associated equipment connected to specific electricity transmission network. The worlds’ biggest wind farm is the Gansu Wind Farm, which consists of thousands of wind turbines. Millborrow (2010) suggests that onshore wind resource provides an economical source of electric power, competitive and cheaper than fossil, gas or coal fuel production plants. Despite the fact that offshore areas have the best suit wind strength and steadiness; farms situated in these regions may attract considerably higher construction and general maintenance costs. Therefore, it is important to consider onshore wind farm projects as they are easier to implement and they can provide grid electricity to remote regions.

By 2014, offshore wind plants accounted for 8,771 mW of the globally installed capacity. The UK is the leader in installation of offshore electric power with almost half of the global installed capacity (REN21 2014).

Case study: Whitelee Wind Farm

Whitelee Wind Farm is the biggest onshore wind farm in the UK. It has an aggregate capacity of 539 mW of electric power, which can adequately power approximately 300,000 homes, and delivered by 215 wind turbines. By 2011, the Scottish government had an objective of producing 31% of its electric power from renewable energy. The overall target is to fully switch to renewable energy sources by 2020. Most strikingly, the larger part of this is expected to be derived from wind energy. According to the official Whitelee Wind Farm website, stakeholders have harnessed the power of wind over hundreds of years for its cleanliness that attracts a significantly low cost (Whitelee Wind Farm n.d.).

How does Whitelee Wind Farm survive unsteady wind currents? The site was specifically chosen for its windy characteristic during almost all times. This way, the turbines are often turning than not. When wind currents are too much, the blades change their positions to avoid breaking. Alternatively, the turbines use their braking system to prevent spinning incidents (Whitelee Wind Farm n.d.).

Conclusion

It is evident that renewable energy generation technologies apply natural resources to produce electric power. These resources include: wind, water, solar, biomass among others, which can be quickly replaced. This way, the fear instilled by the ever decreasing oil and gas reservoirs as well as environmental concerns is lessened incredibly as energy technologists plan and implement wind farm projects aimed at creating an alternative approach to electricity generation.

Renewable wind energy sources are a noteworthy potential for energy efficiencies. Innovative expansion of wind power technologies can also bring about significant economic benefits and energy security. The worlds’ biggest wind farm is the Gansu Wind Farm, and consists of thousands of wind turbines. This implies that there are several turbines to support electricity production in wind farms. Over the recent years, technological advancements have improved the power of wind energy in clean electricity generation using turbines, such as the ones installed at the Whitelee Wind Farm. Overall, it can be concluded that large-scale wind farms offer a vital alternative resource for electricity generation.

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